Lifeguards at local beach hot spots are urging people to keep toddlers within arms reach in the surf.

There had been a several cases this summer where a moment of inattention had resulted in panic - luckily with a happy ending - highlighting the need for the safety message.

Levin-Waitārere Beach Surf Lifesaving club captain Andrew Parkin said the nature of the swimming in surf at any beach meant toddlers could be happily splashing one minute, and under a wave the next.

Waves and currents could quickly put distance between caregiver and child.


"We just want to reinforce the message to keep them within arm's reach," he said.

The old message of swimming between the safety flags always needed to be reinforced, too, as statistics showed anyone in danger had a greater chance of being rescued alive if they were in a patrolled stretch of water, he said.

Volunteers were stationed at the freshly-painted surf club caravan, patrolling the stretch of water between the flags every weekend over summer, from December 16 to January 24, while three paid guards were employed on weekdays over the holiday period.

Swimming while wearing heavy clothing or footwear was also not a good idea and some swimmers had become bogged down with excessive clothing.

"Jeans and jerseys should be avoided at all costs," he said.

"Know your ability and always swim with a buddy, too."

Waitarere Beach volunteer lifeguard Jayden McKnight comes in after checking on some swimmers out the back.
Waitarere Beach volunteer lifeguard Jayden McKnight comes in after checking on some swimmers out the back.

Local volunteer lifeguard Jayden McKnight, 21, who has been involved with the club since he was seven, said there had been a few boogy boarders caught unawares by changing tides and holes, who had needed assistance.

"You need to be careful and respect the sea, no matter how good you think you are," he said.


The region's beaches were unique in that they provided vehicle access, but that meant all motorists had to be vigilant, as they shared the beach with young children who by nature loved to run to and from the sea.

Parkin said there was a 30km speed limit, but that was a limit only, and cars should drive slower and use their discretion when passing by families and swimmers crossing the sand.

Further up the line, Foxton Surf Lifesaving Club president Shane Parlato said while their club also had enjoyed a summer with only minor incidents so far, their main message was for vehicles to slow down and be aware of beach-goers.

"It just needs common sense and a change in culture," he said.

Meanwhile, both Parkin and Parlato said their clubs were in good heart thanks to the success of well-run junior programmes, and that boded well for the future of both clubs.

There were more than 70 "nippers" enrolled at the Waitārere Beach programme, headed by junior surf coordinator Liz Fitzgibbon, while there were 50 nippers involved at a similar programme at the Foxton club.

Both programmes encouraged the participation of parents and guards. The junior surf programmes also provided youngsters with a pathway to becoming fully fledged lifeguards.

Several of the current band of lifeguards at either club were former "nippers".

Parlato said surf lifesaving provided an opportunity for family involvement where generations could be involved at one time.

"There's a family atmosphere. It's something you can do with your kids," he said.