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Water safety reminder ahead of busy beach season

Relax, Raise and Ride - that's the message from TSB Bank and Surf Life Saving New Zealand to anyone caught in a rip current this summer.

The two organisations have launched a water safety campaign today, focusing on rips, ahead of the busy season on New Zealand's beaches.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand national co-ordinator Allan Mundy said rips posed a huge danger to swimmers due to the strength and speed of them.

"If you are not a really good swimmer, don't fight it. Don't swim against it, because it will win everytime."

Mr Mundy said the best thing someone could do if they were caught in a rip was relax, take stock of where they were, raise their hand for help and then ride it out until help arrived.

"Most rips actually come back to shore so if you ride it out, before you know it you'll be amongst the breaking waves which is the safe part of the beach," he said.

"We then ask people to make their way in."

However, Mr Mundy said that if making it to shore was proving difficult, lifeguards would be on hand to help.

He said one of the biggest mistakes people made in rips was failing to act quickly.

"They don't actually think it's happening to them, and they waste a lot of valuable time, basically, double checking 'am I alright?'" Mr Mundy said.

"Look as soon as you feel uncomfortable in the water, stop what you're doing, have a look around, call for help - even if you only need a little hand, it's much better than letting it go for a lot longer, when things turn really serious and lots of people have to come and help."

In the last decade, 51 deaths have been linked to rips at New Zealand beaches and almost 700 non-fatal rip rescues have occurred each year.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand has about 5000 volunteers patrolling the beaches for more than 230,000 hours each year.

About 80 percent of their rescues involve swimmers caught in rips.

TSB Bank chief executive Donna Cooper said it was important people remembered to share the "three R's" message wherever they went.

"I'm calling on all New Zealanders to spread 'the three R's' safety education message: relax, raise and ride," she said.

"Get everyone talking about rip safety, test your whānau's knowledge regularly and make sure you remind anyone of the catchy phrase before they enter the water."

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