Wanganui Surf Lifesaving Guards were not out patrolling Castlecliff and Mowhanau beaches on Christmas Day despite hot weather and hundreds of people swimming.
The lack of lifeguards has been slammed by Councillor Ray Stevens.
Wanganui Surf Lifesaving spokesman Phil Gilmore said the lifeguards were all home with their families for Christmas Day.
"There have never been lifeguards on Christmas Day. People need to take responsibility for themselves and their children ... don't go out past their waists, be very careful and very safe. It's all about taking responsibility and not being stupid," Mr Gilmore said.
On Christmas Day the temperatures soared into the early 30s and around 400 people were at Mowhanau Beach and hundreds more were at Castlecliff Beach. Mr Stevens said one woman and her daughter were caught up in a rip at Mowhanau Beach. They got out of danger but they were terrified, he said. "No life guards around ... this is summer, they should be here."
He said it was "completely ridiculous" that when people were heading to beaches that the lifeguards should not be on duty "Christmas Day or no Christmas Day".
"There should be huge signs up warning people when there are no guards on."
Mr Stevens said instead of hoping people will look after themselves, "it would be more sensible if the surf lifeguards are rostered on duty like nurses, doctors, police and ambulance staff ". However, Mr Gilmore said when the guards were not on duty people should know their limits and act responsibly.
"I went down to Castlecliff Beach on Christmas Day about 5pm and people were acting very responsibly, they were really looking after their children," he said.
But it was a different story when he looked at the North Mole.
"It's just not the place to swim. People have known this for years, yet they keep going down there and it's dangerous."
The life saving patrols were back at the beaches yesterday.