Omanu surf lifeguards were among a number of East Coast clubs forced to start the summer rescue season early as warm weather attracted an influx of people to the beaches.
Surf lifeguards were involved in three rescues in Mount Maunganui, Hot Water Beach and Waimarama Beach in the Hawke’s Bay at the weekend – three weeks before the official patrol season starts at Labour weekend.
Two Omanu lifeguards were called to the aid of a group of young swimmers caught in a rip at Tay Street at the weekend.
On Sunday afternoon Omanu Surf Life Saving Club members, 17-year-old Ben Cochrane and his 18-year-old sister Ashley were on hand to save three children from a rip at Tay Street.
The pair were having an ice cream about 400metres from the water when they noticed three boys getting close to a large rip.
"We thought ‘uh-oh this could be trouble’ and walked down to the water and sure enough they were sucked out about 70metres from the shoreline," says Ben.
Acting quickly, Ashley grabbed a surfboard while Ben headed into the water.
Ben says the children were terrified and he could hear them screaming.
Ben held onto one boy, aged about seven, keeping him afloat while Ashley paddled the surfboard out. While Ben paddled the boy to shore on the board Ashley helped pull in two slightly older boys, who also needed assistance.
Ben is glad they reacted when they first spotted the swimmers headed for trouble; otherwise he says it could have been a different story.
"It’s spooky as we’re not normally there and this was one of the biggest rips I’ve seen on our coastline."
After the children were reunited with their parents, Ben and Ashley advised them where they should be swimming to avoid danger.
The rescue follows a courageous action at Hot Water Beach the day before where 16-year-old clubbie James Lee saved four people from a rip on Saturday in what he describes as being in the right place at the right time.
James was training on the beach when he spotted people in trouble and went to their aid.
He first rescued two young boys who were being dragged out to sea and within about 10 minutes of pulling them in, went to rescue another man who could not swim. As he was pulling the man to safety, he realised another man was also in need of help.
He admits he is usually equipped with rescue gear and there would typically be other lifeguards on hand, but on Saturday he was the only lifeguard at the scene.
"That was weighing on me most, the fact that if I didn’t get to these people, they’d drown."
In the Hawke’s Bay, two clubbies also assisted a group of swimmers at Waimarama Beach.
Waimarama Surf Life Saving Club chairman Kim Nilsson says Luke Harman and Travis Wainwright had been IRB training and were surfing further down the beach at the time of the incident.
They launched an IRB to assist and were directed by on-beach spectators to where a missing swimmer was last seen, but a couple of jetskiers had managed to pick him up.
Kim says there was heavy sea fog, which hampered the search.
"You could barely see the club house 30 metres back on shore.”