Not everyone at the beach is on holiday and for those working on something other than their tan, it's an early start. Local Focus spent a day at Mount Maunganui main beach with Patrol Captain Julia Conway.

"I might get up at 7 o'clock in the morning and go for a run around the Mount or a swim around Leisure Island and then rock up to work and start setting up for the day."

A typical day for a lifeguard at Mount Maunganui beach starts well before the flags go up.

"We're here for eight hours – 10 'til 6, we've got our flags up.


"The priority for us is to have a safe area to swim in. Deciding where we're going to put the flags, we'll discuss that with the team, do we need any more first aid equipment, are we running out of fuel, are there any issues with the boat, how did we feel yesterday, how are we feeling for today."

Once the flags are up and swimmers in the water, the lifeguards take turns patrolling the beach.

"On our roam some of the key things we look for are swimmers out around Rabbit Island, maybe divers, people snorkelling, kayakers. If there's an offshore wind we want to be making sure no one's drifting out to sea or getting blown out," Conway said.

And with up to 1500 people on the beach during the peak of summer, it's a big job, with a number of potential dangers to look out for.

"Here at the main beach, especially this season, we've had a few holes and currents that are leading into rips, those are called feeder currents.

"A hole might look like a calm patch of water, slightly darker because it's deeper. People can walk straight into that hole and it might go from knee-deep to neck-deep in one step. That can be quite dangerous for young children because stepping off that step might mean it's over their head, which raises the importance of having an adult with that child."

Last season the club made 21 rescues and 45 assists.

While life between the flags is a lifeguard's priority, it's not their sole responsibility.


"It might be incidents up the Mount or around the base track, along the boardwalk, across at the cafes or the hot pools and campground - those are all places that I've done first aids."

Patience is important too when it comes to the occasional false alarm.

"We got a call over the radio for a stingray sting and to prepare the first aid room. So I go into the first aid room and I've got ice packs, I've got absorbent pads, I've got everything I thought I would need for a stingray sting. And our patient gets there and it's calf cramp!"

So what are Conway's top tips for staying safe at the beach?

"Whenever you're at the beach you need to know your limits. If it is a patrolled beach swim between the flags. Listen to the lifeguards if they are telling you to move – there is a reason why they're telling you to move.

And if you do get stuck in a rip - remember the three Rs.

"You need to relax, raise your hands and then just ride the rip because the rip's only going to take you out as far as the breaking waves.

"We shouldn't be doing rescues … we should just be talking to people, educating people and making sure they're having a fun and safe time at the beach," Conway said.


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