Lifeguards reiterate safety messages after saving 702 people last summer

As the weather warms, lifeguards are gearing up for a busy season.

More people drowned in the first 10 months of this year than in the whole of 2018, prompting Surf Life Saving New Zealand to reiterate its safety messages. 

Last summer, lifeguards saved 702 people from drowning.

On Monday morning, 702 children from Whangaparaoa School on Auckland's Whangaparaoa Peninsula swarmed Manly Beach with an important message - swim between the flags.

"There's a 'she'll be right' attitude we often see in young males especially, so really [be] aware of your abilities, know your limits and if you are in doubt, stay out," says Lifeguard of the Year James Lloyd.

At least 65 people have died in the water so far this year in what Maritime New Zealand calls "avoidable incidents". Twenty-five of those people drowned at beaches.

Three years ago, Elaina Edgar-Nemec almost drowned at Piha in west Auckland. 

"It was just wave after wave getting thrown around," Edgar-Nemec says.

While it's an experience that would put many people off returning to the water, being saved by lifeguards inspired Elaina to become one. 

She's now using what she learned from her own close call to warn others about tidal changes.  

"When it's a low tide, especially at Piha, that's when the currents are really strong, the holes come out and you're swimming - at one point you're touching - and then you're in a deep hole," she explains.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand warns swimmers to relax their bodies if they get into trouble.

"As soon as you start panicking, that's where things can start to go wrong," Lloyd warns.

Thanks to New Zealand's lifeguards, 702 people are able to celebrate Christmas this year - but they hope by following some simple safety rules, fewer people will need their help this summer.