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This summer NZME is helping Surf Life Saving to help save lives. The charity relies on the goodwill of thousands of volunteers, fundraising, grants and sponsorship to keep our beaches patrolled. Here's your chance to help raise money for new equipment and lifeguard training.

David Toomey initially 'freaked out' when he got stuck in a rip. Photo / TSB
David Toomey initially 'freaked out' when he got stuck in a rip. Photo / TSB

Pilates and physio trainer David Toomey realised something was wrong when he swam about 20 strokes - but didn't get anywhere.

He had been swimming out to a buoy but decided to head back to the shore.

"I turned around and started to make my way back in, did about 20 strokes and turned around and realised I was still at the same place and I realised I was caught in a rip."

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Toomey acted like many who suddenly realise they are in trouble: "I started to freak out".

"I started to thrash through the water. I could feel my breath getting really shallow, I started panicking. I was getting nowhere."

Fortunately he was able to swim to some rocks.

"I sat down and could feel there was a mixture of salt water, sweat and tears. I was completely overwhelmed and I was so happy to be out of the water and be safe, but still sort of raw and fresh from being in such a powerless and crazy situation."

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Surf Lifesaving New Zealand's advice on how to survive a rip, Sam and Donna. Video / TSB

SAM AND DONNA

Outdoor education student Sam and librarian Donna were enjoying themselves at the beach when they became trapped in a rip.

"We were just enjoying having fun in the waves, cooling down and then a couple of big waves came in and before we knew it we were being sucked out in a rip," said Donna.

Sam said it happened so quickly.

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"One minute my feet were on the ground, [I] went under a wave and [the next minute] I couldn't touch it and my head was going underwater."

Sam and Donna managed to escape a rip by relaxing and riding it out. Photo / TSB
Sam and Donna managed to escape a rip by relaxing and riding it out. Photo / TSB

After initially trying to fight it Sam started to relax - one of the three key things to do in a rip.

"Initially I tried to swim against it but then I remembered I needed to relax and conserve my energy, so I floated on my back and slowly rode the rip out and then got washed back in with some waves."

"It's not until you're actually put in that moment then you really understand fully what it's capable of."

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand's advice on how to survive a rip, Mark Stirling. Video / TSB

MARK STIRLING

Surfer Mark Stirling was on the beach with a friend when he noticed three swimmers in trouble about 60m off shore.

"We had to make a split-second decision on whether or not we were going to attempt the rescue or try and find more help. With a quick assessment of the beach we realised we were the only two people who had noticed so we ran down the beach and into the water."

Stirling said the surf was 2m-3m and there was a moment of doubt in his mind about whether he had enough energy to reach them.

"We persevered and got out to the swimmers they were in a bit of a state. There (were) three of them, they only had their shorts and T-shirts on with a small kid's boogie board between them. They were tired."

Mark Stirling helped a trio caught in a rip. Photo / TSB
Mark Stirling helped a trio caught in a rip. Photo / TSB

Stirling and his friend got the trio to hold onto their leg ropes and "we sort of bunny-hopped them in to the beach through the breakers".

"Once we got on to the beach I think the swimmers quickly realised they underestimated the power of the water and they possibly got swept into the rip with what's called a sweep - a sideways current."

"I really believe another two or three minutes it could have had a really different outcome."

Stories as told to TSB in "No body is strong than a rip" awareness campaign.
BETWEEN THE FLAGS: An NZME summer campaign
READ MORE: What to do in a rip
READ MORE: Off-duty lifeguard saves three people
READ MORE: Couple nearly drown after ignoring lifeguards
READ MORE: Too many kiwi blokes make bad decisions in the water
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