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Swimmers urged to take more responsibility

Tuesday 8 Jan 2013 5:36 p.m.

Lifeguards are becoming increasingly frustrated that the water safety message isn't sinking in for swimmers.

Every summer thousands flock to the beach, and swimmers are being urged to take more responsibility for their own safety.

“Everyone knows the messages as well, they've got through to most New Zealanders. We're pushing the same messages forever. Everyone knows you swim between the flags,” says lifeguard Chris O’Neil.

But swimmers ignored that message at the weekend, forcing Taylors Mistake Beach in Christchurch to close, after 28 people were caught swimming outside the flags and had to be rescued by lifeguards.

“We had quite a few rescues because the surf was a lot bigger and this rip in here was running a lot stronger. We also had around 2000 people on the beach and 400 in the water, so a small space for a lot of people, so it was really easy to get in trouble,” says lifeguard Emily Jones.

Twenty people were swept out to sea at Hahei on the Coromandel on Sunday, but were all rescued.

Ben Cleary's been dragged out before, and doesn't want to experience it again.

“[It was] just intense…you don't know what's going on and you end up going back. My Dad just told me just to go with the flow, pretty much, and just wait it out, and have your hand up.”

Marine Forecasters say swells of up to four metres in recent days have caused freakishly high waves and dangerous conditions, especially along the East Coast. But while the deep, slow moving low that's causing a prolonged north-east swell is slowly moving off the country, lifeguards say it's no reason for complacency.

“We get a little bit frustrated sometimes. We don't mind picking up learner surfers - sometimes people get into a bit of trouble and that's our job. But sometimes I look at it and think it's self-inflicted and it's just stupidity that's caused it,” says Mr O’Neil.

And stupidity is one cause no one wants to die for.

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