It's always a busy time of year for the country's surf lifesavers but a combination of warm weather and let-loose Aucklanders has prompted an early inundation on Bay of Plenty beaches.
Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service chairman Jamie Troughton said things are a bit different this year and it will pay to be prepared.
Having experienced February-like temperatures in mid-December, the unseasonably warm start to summer had driven people to the beach in numbers.
"There's a lot more people in the water."
This was compounded by those who have, until recently, been stuck in Auckland and wanted a beachside holiday.
Troughton explained varying factors resulted in different challenges and risks.
Recently, offshore wind had proved problematic for several beach-goers enjoying a flat ocean, who needed to be rescued when their inflatable unicorn and pony drifted away from the shore.
"If it's windy, don't take your inflatables to the sea, keep them for the pool."
Volunteers will be out patrolling this holiday period.
In his 15 years at the nearby Pāpāmoa Surf Life Saving Club, president Andrew Hitchfield has seen plenty.
"At some stage or another, I've seen just about everything that can happen, good and bad."
He explained each club typically carried out between 15 and 30 rescues each year, but thousands of preventative actions were taken between Mount Maunganui and Maketū.
His advice was for people to know their limits and to swim between the flags.
"We position the flags in the safest place on the beach we patrol."
Water Safety NZ data shows as of December 17, there have been seven preventable drownings in the Bay of Plenty and 62 nationwide. January recorded the most drownings.
Preparation was Tauranga Coastguard's key advice for keeping safe over summer.
Operations manager Dane Robertson wanted boaties to ensure they had enough correct fitting, fit-for-purpose lifejackets, two forms of communication, and more than enough fuel on board.
"Ensure you have informed Tauranga Coastguard of your point of departure, your intended destination, how many are on board, and your intended return time.
"Set an Activation Time by ensuring that you have told someone at home to raise the alarm by a set time if they have not heard from you.
"People often think that they will be fine as they are not far from their point of departure, but when your vessel's engine fails, you can really be stuck."
There was often a "she'll be right" approach, he said.
"Taking some time to think about the 'what ifs' before you leave for the day is so important."
This included checking the weather and water conditions for the day, having a plan and sticking to it, ensuring you can communicate in various ways should you need help.
"The ocean can be very unforgiving, knowing your current limits is a great way to ensure you have a successful and safe day on the water."
The Tauranga team of 32 has helped more than 530 people get back to shore and attended 65-plus callouts between December 2020 and January 2021.
It averaged four on-water assists each week and the 22 radio operators have processed more than 30,000 trip reports in the past year.
"Some summer days we can have up to six callouts in a day."
He said education was important, particularly for those new to boating.
A Maritime Recreational Boating Survey found 13 per cent of New Zealand Recreational Boaties selected the Bay as their primary boating destination.
"This means that on a busy day the boat ramps will be very busy. Being prepared, patient, and giving yourself plenty of time will help make your day successful."
While on-water assistance had increased from about 15 per cent from 2020, the crew was seeing a better approach to on-water safety.
"People new to boating are wanting to know the navigation rules, want to ensure they, and their family, are safe when on the water."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council harbourmaster Jon Jon Peters said he was expecting more people on the water this summer "and with that will bring more inexperienced people".
He said region-wide maritime patrols had started and they were already seeing lots of people using the waterways.
"We have increased the number of patrols in Whakatāne this summer and we will also have a new boat in Rotorua beginning operation early next year."
Peters reminded people it was important to check all equipment was in good working order and that everything was there.
"Putting on a decent lifejacket is one of the simplest things you can do to stay safe on the water."