Three Western Bay of Plenty beaches are in the top 10 in the country for the number of rescues performed by lifeguards during the summer season.
Papamoa, Omanu and Mount Maunganui all ranked in the top beaches in the country performing up to 55 rescues during summer, according to figures released yesterday.
Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and Omanu all rated in the top 10 beaches for the number of rescues last season.
Mount undertook 55 rescues, while Omanu had 52 and Papamoa 45. Muruwai experienced the most rescues with lifeguards performing 105 in the season that ended at Easter.
Nationwide rescue numbers increased by 48 per cent on last season.
Surf Life Saving Eastern Region club development officer for Mount Maunganui, Omanu and Papamoa, Scott Bicknell says it has been a very busy summer for local lifeguards thanks to the dry weather.
This coupled with the slow in swimming activity in the previous season due to the Rena oil spill has affected the increase, he says.
“Rena gave us a big hit the previous season which saw beach-goer numbers down and club memberships down. But this season has been a fantastic dry summer – from Christmas it really ramped up especially when kids hit school holidays and there are greater risk factors associated with that.”
Scott says the increased numbers of people on the beach meant not everyone could swim between the flags.
“We conducted roams along the beach – there were more people to deal with so it was harder to keep control.”
Nationally, surf lifeguards spent more than 200,000 hours patrolling about 80 beaches since Labour Weekend, rescuing more than 1600 people – well above last year's total of 1088.
The largest increase was in the number of searches. Lifeguards have taken part in 581 searches this season compared to 233 last season, which is a 149 per cent increase.
Surf lifeguards performed 1990 first aid treatments nationally, a 30 per cent increase on the previous season's figures.
Scott says Mount Maunganui lifeguards attend to medical calls on Mauao itself and so they are unique in their first aid treatments.
“They are a first point of call for visitors in need of help – they've got the main access up there with the equipment they have.”
Scott says the clubs have also introduced new strategies for preventative actions this year.
Nationally 120,409 preventative actions were taken, which is a 41 per cent increase.
“We're getting a bit more on top of our game by trying to improve our professionalism and our service,” says Scott.
“We're trying to prevent rescues and people getting into danger by talking to members of the public and educating – and by being vigilant.”
Patrols have officially ended for the season and people, who now have to responsibility for their own safety when around water.
Scott says they should adhere to beach safety rules: Be prepared, watch out for yourself and others, be aware of the dangers and know your limits.
Basic Beach Safety Rules
• Be prepared - Learn to swim and survive and set rules for safe play in the water. Always use safe and correct equipment and know the weather and water conditions before you get in.
• Watch out for yourself and others - Always pay close attention to children you are supervising, in or near water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.
• Be aware of the dangers - Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags. If in doubt - stay out.
• Know your limits - Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.
Top 10 nationwide rescue statistics
Taylors Mistake 58
Mt Maunganui 55