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With the surf lifesaving season official launching this coming Saturday, 22 October, surf lifeguards are readying themselves for a busy summer.

Labour weekend is the traditional start to the patrol season for most areas of the North Island, across Auckland and the beaches in Northland, Waikato, Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty. Beaches elsewhere will be patrolled as the weather and water conditions get warmer.

With warmer weather coming our way, Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is urging beachgoers to choose a beach where there are lifeguards and swim between the flags, as that’s the safest place to swim.

SLSNZ’s chief executive Paul Dalton says, “NIWA is predicting a strong marine heatwave summer, so we are expecting another busy season like last year.

“Last year our patrols rescued 726 people, and despite a record number of drownings across the country, there were zero drownings between our red and yellow flags.”

Over the last 10 years, 89% of fatal beach drownings in Aotearoa New Zealand were male[1].

SLSNZ says that's more than 300 dads, sons, brothers, husbands and mates, and enough is enough. Too often men underestimate the conditions and overestimate their ability. This ‘she’ll be right’ attitude gets too many men into trouble in the water, often with fatal consequences.

“New Zealanders love the coast. Sadly, in the last ten years, there have been 357 beach and coastal fatal drownings in New Zealand. Each fatality leaves whanau and communities devastated. Our drowning toll is something every New Zealander should see as a national tragedy and one we all have a responsibility to address.”

SLSNZ asks those visiting our beaches to remain vigilant in and around the water and stresses the importance of making safe decisions at beaches. People can check the Safeswim - Nau mai ki Safeswim website:  for patrol hours and locations.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand says keep it safe, keep it smart, and stay within your limits. Be sure to watch out for rip currents that can carry you away from shore, be smart around rocks, don’t overestimate your ability in the water, and never swim or surf alone.

If you observe someone in trouble in the water, call 111 and ask for the police, they are in direct contact with all the marine rescue services around the country.

Beach Safety Messages

  • Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip, remember the 3Rs: *Relax and float, *Raise your hand to signal for help and *Ride the rip until help arrives or you can swim back to shore
  • Read and understand the safety signs – ask a surf lifeguard for advice as beach conditions can change regularly
  • Know your limits/ Don’t overestimate your ability or underestimate the conditions
  • Always keep a very close eye on young children in or near the water. Keep children within arm’s reach at all times
  • Get a friend to swim, surf or fish  with you
  • When rock fishing, always wear a lifejacket and shoes with grip (no gumboots),  and never turn your back towards the sea
  • If in doubt, stay out!
  • If you see someone in trouble in the water, call 111 and ask for the Police
  • Be sun smart – slip, slop, slap and wrap to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.


[1] SLSNZ National Beach & Coastal Safety Report 2020

Surf lifeguards roll out volunteer beach patrols Labour Weekend

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