Two deaths and seven close calls on Auckland's notorious west coast beaches this week have prompted lifeguards to issue a stern warning to the public.
"Unless you're confident - avoid going in or near the water," Surf Life Saving northern region chief executive Matt Williams says.
It follows a harrowing week for lifeguards at some of the region's most notorious beaches.
Tragically, two people - a woman and a fisherman - died.
And at lunchtime today six people were rescued after getting into trouble at O'Neills Bay near Bethells Beach.
Police said a swimmer was flown to hospital after being pulled from the water in a serious condition.
Williams said it had been the busiest winter in recent memory.
"We've had 33 emergency call-outs for our emergency squads since the start of may this year.
"When you consider that in the whole of last year - including summer - we had just 31, that's a massive increase in our workload - and it's forecast to keep growing," he said.
He said the spike in the number of people heading to the beach can be put down to human nature after what he described as a new-found appreciation for the water after the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Recent warm temperatures and sunny weather, as well as school holidays may also have resulted in more people heading to the beach.
"We only ask that this be done safely. But unfortunately, we've seen this wish to get back to the coast manifest in people not taking the right precautions or not staying within their abilities.
"The past week has shown just how many ways there are to get in trouble on the coast."
And that includes the east coast: on Sunday, Mangawhai Heads lifeguards had just finished a training exercise with a team from Waipū Cove when they spotted two girls stuck in a hole.
The pair were rescued by a lifeguard on a rescue board, with the help of a local surfer.
On Monday, emergency crews were called to Bethells Beach after reports that a fisherman had been swept off rocks at O'Neills Bay.
Police moved the search to a recovery phase after extensive searches over the week failed to find him.
On Tuesday, lifeguards were sent on an IRB to Whites Beach, north of Piha, after a woman fell into the water.
did CPR but she was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
On Thursday, lifeguards at Piha rescued three people in trouble at what is known as the Keyhole - a natural rock formation at the beach.
Later that day, Muriwai Beach lifeguards were needed at the nearby gannet colony after a surfer was swept there from nearby Māori Bay.
Then shortly after midday police and emergency services were called when six swimmers got in trouble at O'Neills Bay.
Lifeguards and St John Ambulance staff also raced to the scene and all the people in the water were eventually accounted for.
One person was flown to hospital in a serious condition, said police.
Safety messages from Surf Life Saving
• Choose a patrolled beach and swim between the flags
• Ask a lifeguard for advice
• Do not over-estimate your ability
• Keep young children within arm's reach at all times
• Watch out for rip currents. They can carry you away from shore
• When fishing from rocks, always wear a lifejacket
• If in doubt, stay out
• If you see someone in trouble, call police on 111
• Be sun smart - slip, slop, slap and wrap