How to stay safe at the beach this summer

Weather forecasters are predicting a long hot summer ahead. And with overseas travel off-limits, more of us than ever will be flocking to beaches across the country.

Here in West Auckland, we are lucky to have some of the best beaches in New Zealand. But the strong currents and big waves also make the likes of Piha and Muriwai among the most dangerous.

New Zealand has one of the highest fatal drowning rates in the world. Nationwide, drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death. According to Water Safety NZ, in 2019, there were 82 preventable drowning deaths. And each one leaves a family devastated.

Grabbing your togs and heading off to the surf is what summer is all about for many Westies. And so, here’s what you need to know about staying safe at the beach.

Beach water safety

Many beaches are patrolled by fantastic and dedicated teams of surf lifeguards. Yellow and red flags are used by the lifeguards to indicate the safest place to swim at the beach.

Make sure you always listen to the lifeguards and practise the following safety tips:

  • Never swim alone and closely supervise your children.
  • Know your limits and if in any doubt, stay out of the water.
  • Learn how to recognise rips. And keep a watchful eye out when in the water.
  • If you get into trouble, try not to panic. Stay calm and raise your hand in the air. This sends a signal to the lifeguards that you need help.

West Auckland beaches are also popular spots for rock fishing. However, lifeguards advise against it as fishing off the rocks is dangerous. A rogue wave could see you become another drowning statistic.

However, if you are planning on rock fishing, then the advice from the lifeguards is simple. Always wear a life jacket, go with a companion and assess the weather and conditions beforehand.

The fantastic team at Piha Surf Lifesaving Club know a thing or two about water safety. The club’s President, Peter Brown, sums up the best advice as follows.

‘We want everyone to enjoy our fantastic beaches as safely as possible,’ he says.

‘Our most important tip for beach safety is to swim at a patrolled beach between the flags. And don’t forget your sunscreen! Be sun smart and Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap every time.’

Auckland Council’s SafeSwim website is a very useful resource. It includes live information on water quality and swimming conditions at your favourite swimming spots. Check it out before you head to the beach for all the latest updates.