Lifeguards exhausted as record numbers of swimmers need saving

Record numbers of people are getting into trouble at west Auckland beaches.

Many are mass rescues involving more than five people, and lifeguards are frustrated and exhausted.

Three people were rescued in just 10 minutes at Muriwai on Sunday. The day before, more than a dozen were pulled from the water in under an hour.

Lifeguard Sonia Connon says it's often younger people who get into difficulty. 

"With boogie boarders, younger people like that, they start to tire and then they can't catch the waves and then they start to panic, and when that panic sets in that's when they drown."

Warm weather draws thousands to Muriwai on the weekends, with up to 600 people in the water at one time.

This means more work for the lifeguards, especially at one of New Zealand's most dangerous beaches.

Lifeguard Tim Jago says some swimmers aren't taking safety seriously.

"We've dealt with people that intentionally put themselves in harm's way," he told Newshub. 

"After we'd rescued them for the third time we handed them over to the police. Yesterday for the first time in decade I came upon drunk swimmers."

Lifesavers say the numbers of rescues are the highest they've been in at least 10 years. 

'Mass rescues' involving more than five people are also on the rise.

"It means we're having to do these shuttle rescues," says Mr Jago. 

"They're stressful on the lifeguards; they're stressful on the swimmers and stressful on the gear."

He says lifeguards are exhausted.

"They were out there doing mass rescues and tube rescues for three or four hours non-stop, and at the end of the day they were physically limping."

Surf Life Saving NZ gets no government funding. The association says that needs to change to fill a $4 million shortfall.

Without it they can't fund the service, and fear people will drown on their watch.

Lifeguards say everyone can make their job easier by checking the conditions and swimming between the flags.