Local lifeguards are gearing up for a steady start to the patrolling season this weekend, with settled weather and small swells in the forecast.
Labour Weekend marks the traditional start of the season for many clubs in the Eastern Region, with volunteers from the likes of Hot Water Beach, Whangamata, Waihi Beach, Mount Maunganui, Omanu and Papamoa breaking out the patrol flags and hitting the sand.
This will also be the third season Eastern Region partners Zespri have provided support to train lifeguards, with the yellow-and-red-clad crew clocking up more than 4000 hours of further education over winter in areas like IRB development, first aid and patrol capability.
Eastern Region manager Chris Emmett says the off-season was an important time for lifeguards.
“Our shop window is over summer, when the water warms up and the crowds hit the beaches, but the cooler months are crucial for lifeguards as that's when they develop new skills, gain valuable knowledge and put in long hours getting fit in preparation for the new season.
“Having Zespri support that development is crucial as it provides a direct benefit for the public, with our lifeguards better-placed to identify dangers, to manage the beaches and respond to emergencies where required.”
Over summer, voluntary weekend patrols will operate at the region's 19 surf clubs.
Regional (paid) lifeguards will also begin work in December, operating during the week at the 19 clubs, as well as another 10 locations such as Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Tay St, Papamoa East and the Ohope campground.
This weekend's forecast is mostly fine, although spring westerlies are still keeping sea water temperatures cool, with most beaches hovering around the 15C mark.
Those same winds are also contributing to a prolonged period of relatively gentle waves at surf beaches, although swimmers still need to be aware of currents and holes, and fishermen should take extra care around rocks.
As well as beginning patrols and encouraging swimming between the flags, many clubs will use this weekend to induct new lifeguards and hold lifeguard refresher tests, with a series of practical and theoretical tests to ensure they start the season in the best possible shape.