For the lifeguards who take up their protective stations on the beaches the ideal outcome of the endless hours of extensive rescue and lifesaving training they go through is never having to use it.

"Yes, that is the ideal outcome," Waimarama Surf Lifesaving Club chairman Tony Pattison said. "Not having to do rescues, as the public heed the water safety advice that is around them."

But the "ideal outcome" has never been on the cards, and never will be.

"So those skills and all that training are there to assist the public when there is an emergency."


Mr Pattison has been involved with the Waimarama club for about seven years and his daughter and son have also joined the volunteer ranks to what is an absolutely essential community service.

"The club year to date has performed 1900 volunteer hours, rescued 13 people and undertaken 36 assists where people have been assisted to get to shore.

"It would be fair to say that it is 13 people who may not be with us today if it was not for this essential service and perhaps more, if we were not on hand to assist the others to shore," he said.

"The recent incident at the beach is tough on our club and the lifeguards involved. No one wants to experience a loss of life — it is days now when you constantly reflect on what we could have done differently, but the reality is we cannot be there 24/7 and unfortunately these things do happen.

"This is our beach which we patrol at and we all want to protect the people who use it."

When a successful rescue is carried out there is a feeling of fulfilment, but when there is a loss of life it was traumatic.

"It does hit home hard."

Mr Pattison said the lifesavers involved were brought together and supported.

"We rally together and we have a system and process where Victim Support can come in — systems that deal with emotion."

For the lifesavers what they do is simply a passion.

"We all want to protect our community around water, it is something that constantly occurs whether you are on duty or not."

It was something they had long said — "we are in this for life", and that applied everyday for the lifeguards, Mr Pattison said.

"We want to look after the community and yes, it is a real passion."

He said the lifesaving crew loved to engage with the Waimarama community and said on the whole (apart from an occasional exception) the public were respectful.

However, there had been a couple of occasions which he likened to a recently publicised incident at Bethells Beach in Auckland where a lifeguard was abused for trying to advise a man to get his youngsters away from a strong tidal pull in the area.

"It's disappointing to see something like that because we just want everyone to be safe."

Mr Pattison said there had never been a drowning ever reported between the flags and the one thing people had to do was heed the advice — heed the warnings.

It was frustrating for lifeguards to see people enter the water 20 or 30m along the beach outside of the patrol area flags.

"It stretches our resources, as the public are relying on us to monitor the flagged area, but we also get drawn into monitoring the beach outside of the flagged area.

"We put rip warning signs out, but people will still go in," he said.

"Often many people do not know what a rip looks like and where it looks calmer they think this is the safest part of the beach to swim, this is more often than not where rips are actually working or where deeper channels of water are."

Mr Pattison advised, if lifeguards were not on patrol, the bottom line was effectively "if in doubt don't go out".

In a perfect world the devoted lifesaving crews across the land would rather they did not have to put their skills to practical use, but as statistics reveal it is far from a perfect world.

"No one wants to experience a loss of life."