PREVENTATIVE actions rather than rescues provided the main activity for Himatangi Beach lifeguards this summer as patchy weather conditions reduced swimming numbers at the popular Manawatu holiday spot.
No rescues have been recorded since patrols started in December, as compared to five last season, while smaller surf conditions and fewer rips also contributed to the lifeguards’ quiet 2009/10 watch.
Other beaches in the Western Districts area have also had fewer rescues - two at Otaki, as against 18 last year, and none at Levin-Waitarere (seven in 2008/09). Foxton Beach, however, has shown an increase, with nine rescues (five of them on Saturday) as compared to six last summer.
Central Region’s Administration Support Officer for Surf Life Saving New Zealand, Joss Urbahn, said there had been an increase in preventative actions this summer as the lifeguards became more pro-active among the beach users.
Such actions, totalling 375, included shifting people back into the flagged area after drifting clear, advising boogie board users to wear fins, picking up glass and warning swimmers about inappropriate clothing.
Palmerston North Surf Life Saving Club’s regional lifeguard, Jordan Dare, said swimming conditions at the beach had been safer than previous years and everyone had stayed clear of one big hole that was evident at low tide.
Even the jellyfish and bluebottles had stayed away.
Mr Dare said the flagged area usually stretched for about 50 metres, but this sometimes varied depending on the number of swimmers in the surf.
He said the behaviour of swimmers had been good with people generally staying within the flags.
Regional guards handled weekday duties at Himatangi Beach from December 21 to January 29, with the weekend volunteers on duty from the beginning of December until March 14.
Community and Strategic Development Officer, Tracey Hunt, said the importance of the partnership between the club and Manawatu District Council, which provides some financial support, could not be under-estimated.
“The surf patrol provides a vital safety service to the community,” she said. “The sea is to be respected as it poses a safety risk irrespective of conditions”.
Himatangi Beach is a relatively safe swimming spot because of its flatness, but swimmers are urged to keep between the flags, ask the lifeguards where to swim and not to swim alone.
Patrol statistics for Himatangi Beach
Voluntary patrols (weekends)
Hours worked: 357
First aids: 2
Preventative actions: 26
Regional guards (weekdays)
Hours worked: 617
First aids: 2
Preventative actions: 349