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High tides and flash rips catch out beachgoers

“Flash rips” at Raglan’s Ngarunui Beach have been keeping lifeguards on their toes, with 17 rescues in only two days.

The latest spate of incidents came last Saturday when lifeguards performed seven rescues — including one in which six swimmers had to be pulled from the water. An extremely high mid-afternoon tide and flash rips caused havoc among the more than 200 people at the beach.

Two IRBs and lifeguards with tubes and fins assisted the six who were out of their depth and got caught by the current, patrol captain Sam Comport told the Chronicle. And an outgoing tide for much of the day made for extra work.

Big tides with extremes between high and low meant rips on the beach were stronger, he explained.

The swimmers got caught in flash rips, which developed when water warmed quickly and fed into the main rip, said Sam who is from Bethells Surf Life Saving Club and was part of Raglan’s patrol support down from the West Auckland beach to help out during the weekend.

Weekends at Ngarunui were consistently busy in the holiday season, Sam added. Closures at Coromandel and Tauranga beaches because of the Rena oil spills had also seen people travelling over from the east coast to west.

Similar tidal conditions also created flash rips earlier last week, with 10 people rescued within two hours midweek at Ngarunui. Lifeguards launched an IRB and others went straight into the surf to help stranded swimmers.

“They were all off their feet, young kids, boogie-boarders and older people — with the pressure of the rip they lost their footing and were swept out and needed assistance to get back to shore”, said Raglan head lifeguard Isaac Gilmour.

“Most people sit right on the edge of their limits, they don’t leave any room for changing conditions.
“Once you lose your footing it makes it very difficult to get it back,” he warned.

Edith Symes

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