Warmer temperatures towards the end of the week attracted hundreds of people to Tauranga's most popular beaches - and most chose to swim between the flags.

The Bay of Plenty Times surveyed Mount Maunganui, Ōmanu and Pāpāmoa beaches between 1pm and 3pm on Thursday to see how many people were swimming between the flags.

There were about 70 people between the red and yellow flags on Mount Main Beach and about 40 swimming just outside the patrolled area.

Further along the coast at Omanu Beach, there were about 30 people swimming between the flags and 15 not. But the 15 were surfers and were still in view of the flagged area.


Papamoa Beach had about 60 people in the patrolled area and about 15 swimming just outside the red and yellow flags.

Flagged areas were erected at each of the three beaches and lifeguards were manning the patrolled areas.

Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak
Mount Main Beach. Photo / George Novak

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service patrol captain Julia Conway said swimmers had been "pretty good" on the beach, with most people swimming between the flags.

Those who were not swimming between the flags were in the shallows next to Moturiki (Leisure) Island and were still in view of the lifeguards.

Conway, who had been a lifeguard for about seven years, said a rip current usually ran next to Leisure Island but swimmers were not in danger.

"It changes all the time," she said.

However, if conditions worsened, the 21-year-old said lifeguards would alert swimmers to move inside the flagged area.

Conway said because the lifeguards did not yet have access to the new clubhouse, which was currently under construction, it was easier to patrol the beach from the flagged area.


But lifeguards would do a "sweep" of the beach to spot anyone swimming out of view.

Conway urged people to choose a beach spot near the red and yellow flags and not swim directly where they parked their cars.

"The flagged areas are constantly patrolled," she said. "If you can't see us then we can't see you."

Papamoa Beach. Photo / George Novak
Papamoa Beach. Photo / George Novak

Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club president Andrew Hitchfield said there had been "a bit of surf" in the last couple of weeks and beach-goers had become more conscious about swimming between the flags.

People were swimming outside of the flags during larger swells were promptly encouraged to move between the patrolled area, he said.

Occasionally people, particularly teenagers, over-rated their swimming ability, Hitchfield said, but overall the 'swim between the flags' message was sinking in.

"It is the safest place on the beach to swim," he said.

Hitchfield said foreigners needed to be better educated about water safety in New Zealand.

"We saved a Chinese tourist last year who had only been in the country for two weeks," he said. "He thought the flagged area was a private swimming area."

He suggested placing signs with international languages on the beach to help educate tourists about water safety for a more diverse approach.

Omanu Beach. Photo / George Novak
Omanu Beach. Photo / George Novak

Omamu Surf Life Saving Club director of lifeguarding Haven Bellamy said people had been safe in the waters this season and swimming between the flags.

"We have had to move the flags on a couple of occasions as rips open up and the conditions change, but everyone has followed the direction of the lifeguards," he said.

"It is the safest place on the beach to swim."

Bellamy said there had not been any major rescues so far this season.

Chace Wyatt, 7, Kaleb Robinson, 12, and Lauren Robinson, 9, walked a few blocks from the car to get a spot infront of the flags. Photo / George Novak
Chace Wyatt, 7, Kaleb Robinson, 12, and Lauren Robinson, 9, walked a few blocks from the car to get a spot infront of the flags. Photo / George Novak

Katie and James Robinson and Sarah Dewey and their children Chace Wyatt, 7, Kaleb, 12, and Lauren, 9, Robinson were visiting from Hamilton and Te Awamutu.

The beach-goers had walked a few blocks from where they had parked the car just to be able to swim between the flags.

"We always come to the flags," James said.

The families were making the most of the summer break and had been holidaying in Waihi before making the day trip to the Mount Main Beach.

"it is the first time this summer we have been to this beach," James said.

"I like it here, I like the beach and the town," Katie said.

How to be beach safe

Swim between the flags:

- Surf Life Saving New Zealand patrol over 80 of our busiest beaches each summer

- Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags

- The flags identify the safest area to swim when an active lifesaving patrol is on the beach

Rip currents:
- A rip is a strong current of water running out to sea
- Rips can be very dangerous to swimmers as they can sweep you out to sea quickly and easily

Identifying a rip:
- Discoloured or murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom
- A smoother surface with much smaller waves, with waves breaking on either side
- Debris floating out to sea
- A rippled look, when the water around is generally calm

If you get caught in a rip:
- Don't panic
- Don't try to swim against the rip back to shore
- Let the rip carry you out until the current subsides
- Then swim parallel to the beach for 30m-40m before swimming back to shore
- If you get tired or become frightened, stay calm, raise your arm, call for help and wait for assistance

Source: Water Safety New Zealand