When Jacob Crawley had to be rescued from a Mahia rip, it was both a wake-up call and a chance to find his calling.

Crawley, who's now been a Hawke's Bay regional life guard for three summer seasons, knows first hand just how dangerous the beaches in the Bay can be.

"I got swept out pretty far," he said.

"You can feel the current taking you out and it can be quite freaky, but you need to remain calm and know life guards are taught how to handle these situations."

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Surf Life Saving NZ (SLSNZ) is reminding enthusiastic swimmers to stay rip safe this summer, preaching a simple message known as the three Rs.

Relax and float, Raise your hand and Ride the rip.

Crawley has always had a love for the sea, but getting caught in a rip further encouraged him to become a lifeguard. He has already performed about 50 rescues in Hawke's Bay.

Rips present a huge risk for beachgoers in New Zealand, especially Hawke's Bay, where each beach has its own specific traits.

Even if the waters look calm and inviting, Crawley says there can still be a lot of water movement, so swimming between the flags is vital.

"Sometimes lifeguards will even jump into rips when they're on patrol to assess how strong they are. Sometimes they can take you quite far out and sometimes they can take you just behind the break."

The way to identify a rip was to take notice of calm patches of water where waves should be breaking.

"If you see waves breaking either side and a calm patch in the middle, it can often look quite appealing, but that's often the rip. If you see criss-cross water or discoloured water those are also your signs. Just swim where there's a nice constant flow of water coming in."

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SLSNZ CEO Paul Dalton said many people think that when they're caught in a rip that they're strong enough to out-swim it, but not even an Olympic swimmer can beat a rip.

Hawke's Bay life guards started patrolling the beaches from December 17 and will continue until January 25.

Crawley said so far this year, swimmers in the region had been compliant, with no issues reported.