Big swells and busy beaches kept the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service on their toes over the weekend, with five rescues and a number of responses.
Patrol captain Cameron Witney says a big pulse of groundswell on Saturday was a welcome sight for wave-chasers, but also meant his team had to be extra-vigilant all along the Mount Maunganui coastline.
“Three of the rescues involved surfers and boogie-boarders biting off a little more than they could chew and it was a bit concerning both boogie-boarders weren’t wearing fins,” says Cameron.
“February is usually when we start seeing more easterly swells develop and the water is at its warmest so it’s a great reminder to people hitting the beaches to take extra care.”
Although this January was one of the hottest on record, surf conditions were relatively benign for lifeguards. Things have kicked off over the last fortnight, however, with Saturday’s swell leaving a potentially nasty hangover.
Strong currents have gouged out holes all along the coast, greatly increasing the chances of rips on tomorrow’s public holiday, while there’s also another swell due to hit later this week, stemming from several low-pressure systems dropping down out of the Pacific.
Lifeguards also patrolled the Mauao base track on Saturday morning, where the swell coincided with a king tide, causing waves to wash over the track in some places.
Cameron says the other incidents involved lifeguards helping ill and injured people off Mauao, while he was also involved in a rescue before patrol started on Saturday, helping two surfers in trouble after one had been pulled out by strong currents.
He recommends beachgoers swim between the flags and check with lifeguards before taking a heat-breaking dip in the ocean, while board riders need to know their limits.
Regional lifeguards finish week-day patrolling at the end of this week at most beaches, while voluntary patrols will continue every weekend until Easter.
Easter will be particularly noteworthy for the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service too, with demotion starting on the current surf club building on April 3, ahead of a new club build.
Consent has now been lodged and it’s hoped to have part of the new building available by the time the new season starts in October, with the full construction completed by Christmas.