Karioitahi Beach drownings: Surf lifesavers plead with beachgoers to only swim during patrol hours

Lifeguards at a beach where three people have died in six weeks are pleading for all beachgoers not to swim outside of patrol hours.

All three people who died at Karioitahi Beach - south of Auckland - were swimming when lifeguards weren't there.

And the search continues for a person who went missing in the water on Friday night.

On a hot summer's day it's all go at Karioitahi Beach.

But an Eagle helicopter searching for the latest person to go missing at sea casts a pall over it all.

"It's never a nice feeling when you get that message come through or pop up on your phone," says Tara Coe, head of surf lifesaving at Karioitahi.

Coe was on call last night just after 8pm when word came through a person was missing in the water.

But despite aerial and water searches, they haven't found the body of the missing swimmer.

"We're seeing an increase in people swimming after hours and therefore not knowing where the flags may have been set up," Coe says.

"We are urging people not to swim unless the beach is lifeguarded."

Because lifeguards know the strength of the currents better than most.

Search and rescue efforts are a routine that's becoming all too familiar for lifeguards. This is the third drowning at Karioitahi Beach in six weeks. But the deaths don't come as a surprise to locals.

"It's one of the most dangerous beaches, top 10 dangerous beaches in New Zealand," one says.

"There's undertows and it's just not the safest," another adds.

It's a busy beach and lifeguards vigilantly monitor for accidents both in the water and on land.

"So far at Karioitahi we have had 46 incidents since October, October to January," Coe says.

That's 46 times the guards have managed to prevent fatalities but the guards are urging the public to play their part.

Kiwis are asked to swim between the flags, to know your limits and to look out for one another - particularly children.