Can't swim? Stay on the beach, urges Piha lifeguard
Monday 25 Feb 2013 10:35 a.m.
Lifeguards are urging people to take care in the water after the death of two Papatoetoe men at Piha Beach on the weekend.
Bhawandeep Gill, 20, and Yagnik-Kumar Patel, 24, drowned on Saturday night after swimming in what they thought was a calm patch of water. It's believed they were caught in a rip.
A third man was able to make it back to shore, but his friends' bodies were found on Sunday morning.
Piha Surf Livesaving Club captain Tony Featherstone says despite its reputation, people often underestimate how dangerous it can be in the water at Piha.
"The waves on the West Coast are very powerful," he told Firstline this morning.
"Where those calm spots are is typically where the deep, fast-moving water is, so they'll get sucked out into that and when they go to put their feet down, there is no sand there any more, and that's really where they get into difficulty."
There were no lifeguards on duty when the tragedy occurred. Mr Featherstone says there's nothing wrong with Piha as a beach, people just need to know their limitations before getting into the water.
"There are risks and everything on the beach, but it's just about knowing the risks. Because of [Piha's] popularity, it is in the news a lot."
He recommends beachgoers try Find A Beach, a website set up by Surf Lifesaving New Zealand and State Insurance that lets people know when lifeguards are on duty, along with other safety information.
Some residents have called for more signage warning of rips, but Mr Featherstone says if there are too many signs, people will begin to ignore them.
"The safest thing is if you're not confident, or not sure, don't go. Just enjoy your time on the beach."
There have been 50 rescues at Piha since the beginning of summer.