Hawke's Bay lifeguards have had a busy start to the summer season rescuing several people caught in dangerous beach rips.
Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving Club life guarding director Mathew Mannington said there had been seven rescues since patrols started on November 12.
Of note were two rescues by off-duty life guards who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, he said.
Last Wednesday about midday Rosie Barclay rescued three people who had been swept out in a rip.
"Rosie had no access to equipment, swam out to assess the swimmers' state and returned to the shore and had to make do with a broken surf board to assist the most critical women."
The following Friday another off-duty guard, Farren McGregor-Smyth, carried out a rescue involving two males, with the follow-up assistance of the call-out squad.
The life guard said she first spotted the pair were in trouble when they were waving their hands in the air about 100m offshore.
"At the time there were no lifeguards on the beach so I grabbed a radio and a couple of tubes before I sprinted down to the beach."
She cleared several tourists out of the water before heading out to the distressed swimmers with a surfer.
"It got to the point where the rip had taken us about 200m to 300m offshore and it was no longer safe for me to continue swimming."
After checking the surfer was okay staying out in the water, she returned to shore where ambulances, police and senior life guards had gathered before returning to the surf with a flotation device.
"I got back to the guy just in time before he knackered out and went under. We had managed to get the first person back the beach and by the time I got to the guy he'd drifted 400m offshore."
Mr Mannington said both rescues required good decision-making under pressure and large, difficult swims.
"These rescues potentially could have ended badly for all involved if the character of the guards involved was not of their high level."
Waimarama Surf Life Saving Club education director Jason Broome said Waimarama lifeguards had also been busy.
One rescue involved a 35-year-old man being assisted by an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) after being caught in a rip with a boogie board on Saturday afternoon.
A majority of the recent rescues at the beaches were located where aggressive rips had developed.
"We have some very strong rips out at the beach at the moment which are quite dangerous, depending on the tide and size of the surf," Mr Broome said.
Mr Mannington said it was unfortunate the rip area at Ocean Beach was right in front of the car park, the shortest distance to the water, and advised swimmers to take heed of safety messages.
Mr Broome said rips often looked like calm, safe areas to swim and people could very quickly get into trouble. He advised anyone swimming at the beach to keep between the flags.
"If people do get into trouble they should raise their hand, lie on their back and wait for help. Don't try to swim directly against the current as you will quickly tire and place yourself in more risk."
The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter attended Waipatiki Beach about 1pm on Sunday after a 15-year-old girl was pulled unconscious from the water.
She was taken to the Hawke's Bay Hospital and discharged that same day.