Surf lifesavers have had one of their busiest seasons on record, thanks to the unusually warm and prolonged summer.
Guards spent more than 200,000 hours on patrol and saved hundreds of people from drowning.
It's a lesson we're taught from the moment we're old enough to swim -- stay between the red and yellow flags.
"During the peak season, our lifeguards were flat-out rescuing people, keeping people between the flags," says Surf Life Saving New Zealand manager Allan Mundy.
Julie Davis knows all too well what happens if you don't follow those rules. In January she and her son were caught in a rip at Waipu Cove.
"I turned behind me and looked out at the waves and thought, 'No I'm not ready to go there yet,' but wondering how much longer I was going to last. I was absolutely exhausted," she says.
Thanks to the quick thinking actions of the guards on duty, Ms Davis and her son were pulled to safety.
"We've never been so happy to see that surf boat come towards us," she says.
"It wasn't a good situation they were in and potentially it could have gone for the worst," says surf lifesaver Dylan McCombe.
And the things that make going to the beach so pleasurable for most of us are also the things that make life tough for lifeguards.
"It would be up there with one of the busiest we've had in years. Two factors -- we've got such really good weather and warm water, and the public are coming into the beaches in droves," says Mr Mundy.
During the official surf lifesaving period, guards performed more than 1500 rescues -- well up on last year.
"You could probably say, conservatively, a third of those figures would have been fatalities if it wasn't for those lifeguards," says Mr Mundy.
Outside of patrolled beaches though, 14 people have died.
Surf Life Saving says people are making basic mistakes.
"They're underestimating the rips, the size of the surf, the currants, and they're just going straight out from where they put their towel and before they know it they're in trouble," says Mr Mundy.
The weather may still feel like summer in many places, but after tomorrow beware patrol flags will be put away for winter.