Surf Club Busy

Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club’s lifeguards Cameron Lafrenz left, and Wiremu Royal joined on duty lifeguard, Sophrose London on watch during her shift on Wellington Anniversary Day.  With the surf up most people were swimming between the flags
Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club’s lifeguards Cameron Lafrenz left, and Wiremu Royal joined on duty lifeguard, Sophrose London on watch during her shift on Wellington Anniversary Day. With the surf up most people were swimming between the flags

It’s been a busy holiday season for the Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club’s lifeguards with the hole and rips out in front of the clubhouse creating problems for many.

“The hole’s not very deep, but the rip makes it difficult for people to get their footing,” lifeguard Sophrose London said. “Weekends have been quite dramatic, with low tide causing more problems than high tide.”

People get dragged into the hole by the rip and then find themselves in difficulty and needing assistance to return to the beach.

Among the weekend volunteer patrols and the regional lifeguards on duty during the week, they have had a run of preventive actions, moving people away from the hole and danger areas and advising swimmers to stay within the flagged area. But they have had a number of rescues and assisted emergency services at two fatalities at Peka Peka and south of Waikawa Beach.

“It’s been really busy since Christmas,” said Rob Bigwood, a senior member and power craft officer. “The lifeguards have done really well, particularly with two fatalities in seven days.

Swimmers at Otaki Beach
Swimmers at Otaki Beach

Three rescues

While the regional lifeguards have had a relatively quiet time, on two nights last week January 19–23, they had three rescues, on Tuesday one swimmer was rescued from the hole and a group of travellers who got into trouble swimming outside the flagged area, needed the lifeguards’ assistance to get ashore, one required medical help and was sent to hospital. On Thursday, just as they were about to pack up for the day, they had to rescue a young woman who was caught in the hole, again she had been swimming outside the flags.

Otaki lifeguards were patrolling at Paekakariki, Waitarere, Foxton or Himatangi

The regional lifeguards are on duty weekdays, they are paid for their time on patrol. Where in previous years they have been appointed to a set beach — Otaki lifeguards were patrolling at Paekakariki, Waitarere, Foxton or Himatangi, where they stayed throughout the holiday period. This year they have been moved around the different patrolled beaches on different weeks. This has had some benefits as they gained experience in different conditions and introduced others to the Otaki beach.

One of the regional lifeguards is Loic Doison from France. He is in New Zealand and working across the Wellington region at the various clubs. “It is very different here, you have the same kind of dangers but the organisation is different and shorter season,” he said. “It’s interesting to get new techniques and new ways to patrol and sharing knowledge.”

He has worked as a lifeguard in France, England and Australia before coming to New Zealand.

“I have really enjoyed New Zealand and the people are really friendly and welcoming,” he said.

The regional lifeguards finish their weekday patrols on January 30, with the club’s volunteer lifeguards patrolling weekends until March.