New Zealand has shocking drowning statistics every summer. Kiwis (and our visitors) are far too casual when swimming from our highly tidal beaches with swift currents and fearsome rips.
Piha, west coast black sand beach, north Auckland. Photo from Wikipedia.
Water Safety New Zealand states that on average 119 people drown in New Zealand waters every year. Only road crashes kill more people accidently. There is a chilling physiological explanation of the drowning process there too if anyone has a morbid curiosity.
All major beaches in New Zealand are patrolled by surf lifesavers through summer but on any given day you’ll see most people swimming well away from the patrolled areas – I think it’s got something to do with the fact that we don’t like being told what to do. The lifesavers do an admirable job of keeping an eye on the whole beach and mostly they’re successful but they’re fighting an uphill battle; we New Zealanders think we’re indestructible because we grew up swimming in the sea.
In the last two days a grandfather and a father have drowned in two separate incidents when they were trying (successfully) to save young children swimming with them. In both cases some foresight about the conditions might easily have prevented them getting into trouble. A teen also drowned jumping from a waterfall.Photo from throng.co.nz
What’s really sad is that our visitors die too. Our beaches are beautiful and look harmless so people just run into the water at the closest spot to their towels and umbrella rather than checking out where the rips are. I was pleased to see yesterday when I was at Piha beach that there were lifesavers handing out pamphlets in different languages explaining about currents and rips and what swimmers should look for before choosing where to swim.
New Zealand beaches are safe as long as we’re all sensible, know what to look for, supervise our kids PROPERLY (always use flippers with boogie boards) and stay out of the water after drinking. With little children always head to the safer east coast Auckland beaches. Maraetai, east coast inner harbour, Auckland (15 minutes drive east from my place)
EDIT: I just did some research and found that Australia’s latest figures (the year to June 2009) make our figures look even worse. Australia lost 302 people to drowning in that year when of course their population is more than 5 times ours (4m here vs 21m there).
I also note that another person (35 year old male) is missing and now presumed drowned from Piha at about the time I was publishing this post yesterday.