The tragic drowning of an Indian man last year remains in the back of Keegan Merwood's mind as he watches over the busy beach.

"A death anywhere on any beach is horrible," he says. "It is what we are trying to prevent."

January 14, 2018 will forever be a painful reminder of the events which unfolded and the failed resuscitation attempts Merwood performed.

Twenty-six year-old Hemin Limbachiya drowned after he and Tanvi Bhavsar were caught in a flash rip and swept out to sea.


They had been swimming with another man north of the Waimarama Surf Lifesaving Club shortly after patrolled hours had finished.

"That was kinda scary," Merwood said. "We ended up coming back down as we saw the fire engine go past and then just got stuck into the rescue and CPR."

He was one of a number of people who helped in the rescue.

"Thinking back now, it was unfortunate the timing and the place. If they had been in the water 20 minutes before, it wouldn't have happened ... we could have prevented it from happening."

However, this year is thankfully looking a lot better.

Nearly three weeks into the summer season, the Waimarama Surf Life Club patrol captain says it has been "pretty uneventful".

"The surf's been so small that no one's gotten into trouble, so it makes our job easy."

About 700 people have been flocking to the beach during the patrolled hours.


Merwood, who's been a lifeguard for four years, says they always set out to not have to complete any rescues.

"If we can prevent it first than that's a winner. It's about monitoring the situation. If someone looks like they are heading towards being in trouble, we go and let them know."

Last season, Hawke's Bay volunteer lifeguards patrolled five beaches over a total of 12,388.75 hours.

Twenty-seven people were rescued, a further 77 people were assisted and 11 searches were carried out.

Central Region lifesaving manager Netta Cagney said it is a "timely reminder" to stay safe in the water and on the beach.

"The summer season is shaping up well with our volunteer patrols in full force."

She says it is down to the job their lifeguards are doing and the receptiveness of the public.

"Our lifeguards are doing a good job interacting with the public and using their preventative action to prevent anything from happening. So we have been quite lucky in that sense," Cagney said.

On Boxing Day Surf Life Saving New Zealand launched a campaign reminding 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.

Cagney says they had an overwhelmingly positive response.