SWIMMERS and parents have been ignoring lifeguards' advice and putting the lives of their children at risk by allowing them to swim at Castlecliff Beach when it is closed.
Wanganui lifeguards patrol captain Star Tutaki said while most were responsible, some people were regularly dismissing lifeguards' warnings, even allowing children as young as three to go into the waves.
For the past week, strong winds had caused the beach to be closed from about 3pm, because incoming high tides made it too dangerous to swim.
Castlecliff Beach had a strong surf break, which last year had left three confident swimmers with broken arms, legs and a fractured nose, Mr Tutaki said.
Yesterday the danger flags went up about 3pm, with strong winds pounding waves on to the beach in two second intervals.
While most swimmers had left when told the beach was closed, up to 20 people aged between three and teenage had stayed in the water.
Others had ignored the warning flags at the top of the beach and gone in anyway.
"We tell them it's dangerous, the beach is closed, and they just go, 'Oh, yeah, we're just going in for a paddle'," Mr Tutaki said.
The lifeguards were no longer liable for any injuries or death that occurred when the beach was closed for safety reasons, he said.
Some swimmers seemed unaware of what the danger flags meant or assumed that because lifeguards were on the beach, it was safe to swim, he said.
However, while the lifeguards still watched over and rescued anyone who got into trouble, people were putting themselves and their children at risk of injury, Mr Tutaki said.
At high tide, two-metre waves broke on the shore with a force that would be too great for most young children.
"There's no way I'd want my kid in there," Mr Tutaki said.
"Some parents aren't cautious enough. It's distressing. Some parents are really too relaxed when they get to the beach."
A toddler who paddled when the sea was too rough could be left with a fear of water for life if something went wrong.
And while there had been no breakages so far this year, people were coming out of the water with grazes to their arms and faces on a daily basis.
Swimming when it was unsafe also encouraged others to do it in the belief it was okay.
Although lifeguards could advise people not to put themselves at risk, they could not force them to listen. In Australia, people could be fined and removed by police, Mr Tutaki said.
"I can only advise them; I can't run them off the beach," he said.
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