Swimmers are still risking hidden rocks and tidal flows at a “very dangerous” stretch of beach in Sumner as the summer heats draws thousands to the water.
New signage, warning of strong currents, submerged rocks, unstable rocks and inshore holes, have been put up from Shag Rock to Scarborough by the Christchurch City Council, under a joint project between the Council's Coastal Area Park Ranger Team and Surf Life Saving Canterbury.
“We have had a big jump in rescues as up to a thousand people can at that beach on hot, sticky days,” says Grant Lewis, District Manager, Surf Life Saving Canterbury. Rescues jumped from eight in the past season to 35 since November, this year. The season ends in March.
After two poor summers, Sumner is experiencing high tides “right up to the rocks” and a stronger rip and drift with the outgoing tide.
Of particular concern to Mr Lewis is the 50 metre-wide channel 40 metres off the beach which suddenly drops a metre. The channel, right in front of the Cave Rock, poses a special danger to children, he says.
The treacherous channel fronts the beach for almost a 100 metres and the sudden drop has put many swimmers in trouble, adults included.
A beach signage strategy is being developed for Sumner over the next year which will try to integrate all bylaw, information and safety information in a single attractive and readable format. It will reduce the overall number and duplication of existing signs.
“There is no doubt that better signage will help the public and inform them of the dangers: without the signage we may have had even more rescues!” says Mr Lewis.
“At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to inform the public. Of course, we can't make them read the signs or take notice of them, but at least we have tried and fulfilled our responsibility,” he says.
Safety tips for summer swimming
1. Have an adult watch over you
2. Listen to the advice from Lifeguards
3. Never swim or surf alone
4. Swim between the patrol flags
5. If in doubt, stay out
6. Be sun smart
7. Learn to recognise rip currents
8. Never swim when you are tired or cold
9. Always consider other surf users
10. Always use safe and correct surf equipment