As staycations become the new norm, Hawke's Bay Surf Life Saving (SLS) clubs are readying for a busy opening weekend of the official season.
SLS New Zealand chief executive Paul Dalton said surf lifeguards across the country are bracing themselves for what could be the busiest lifesaving season on record, as New Zealanders face a summer without the option of overseas holidays.
Over 70 surf lifesaving clubs with more than 18,000 members patrol over 90 locations throughout the country at the peak of summer.
While the long weekend marked the official start of patrol season for many, Hawke's Bay clubs' official opening day isn't until November 1.
Ocean Beach Kiwi SLS Club lifeguarding director Matt Mannington said while patrols were not officially in action yet, high temperatures and high numbers of beach-goers over Labour weekend gave a glimpse of what is to come.
"We're not officially up and running, but our staff members down there said the carparks were really full for this time of year - a big increase on this time last year."
Mannington said Ocean Beach had seen close to a 20 per cent increase in the number of beach-goers across the last two SLS seasons, with another rise anticipated this summer despite the lack of international visitors.
"We are expecting it to be a big, big year this year, so we've already been gearing up to try and cope," he added.
Dalton said after two water fatalities in the last fortnight nationwide, everyone must familiarise themselves with key safety measures.
"We're anticipating this summer to be incredibly busy," he said. "We're asking New Zealanders to do their part by choosing to go to lifeguarded beaches, and always swim between the red and yellow flags.
"Our volunteer surf lifeguards play a vital role in the communities they serve," Dalton added. "We want everyone who visits the beach this summer to make it home to their loved ones at the end of the day."
Westshore SLS Club director Brian Quirke said rising water temperatures and lack of overseas travel options will mean an eventful period for SLS clubs across Hawke's Bay.
"I think all the clubs are aware people aren't going to be travelling, so there's an expectation we'll get a lot more on the beaches than we've ever had in the past," he said.
"Obviously if people can't go overseas to Australia's Gold Coast or somewhere, they'll end up using New Zealand's beaches more, which will put our workload up significantly."
While no people were rescued in Hawke's Bay over the long weekend, three boats were towed to shore by the coastguard.
Coastguard Hawke's Bay skipper Henry van Tuel said a quick boat-tow of about 300 metres off Perfume Point on Saturday was followed by two more tows on Sunday.
"On Sunday while preparing for our regular training session, we received a call for assistance from a boat broken down near North Pania," he said. "While towing that boat back to Napier, we had a second call for assistance from a boat which had broken down off Whirinaki Bluff.
"With a mixture of experienced crew and trainees and flat seas, it was an ideal opportunity for our trainees to gain valuable training experience."
Van Tuel said he and his team are bracing for a busy summer.
"Having spoken with the boat shops, they're all flat-out and booked out for weeks ahead for boat maintenance and so on, which is unusual," he said.
"There'll be a lot of people staying home this summer, which means they'll be going out boating here. On that basis, there is a good chance we'll be getting a lot more boat tows."