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Rescues at Wainui, Kaiti

‘I thought someone’s going to die here’: lifeguard
Surflifesaving beach patrol. File picture

A TEENAGE boy was “nearly gone” when a surfer rescued him from a powerful rip at the northern end of Makorori Beach on Saturday afternoon.

Riversun Wainui Surf Life Saving Club member Kelly Ryan had just come in from having a surf when he saw the boy and another lad in trouble at around 4pm.

“I'd been surfing in that exact spot for well over an hour. I was having a beer, actually, and watching the sea when I saw the boys caught in the rip.

“The surf was big, up to five feet, and the rip was really powerful.

“The boys were swimming straight out into it and I thought someone's going to die here.”

One of the teenagers managed to get out of the rip and come ashore but his companion was caught in it and dragged about 150 metres offshore.

Mr Ryan, 47, grabbed his standup paddleboard and went out to him.

“He was nearly gone when I got to him. All he could do was lie on my board on his back, he was that exhausted.

“He must have laid there for at least three minutes before he was ready to head back to the beach.”

Mr Ryan said the boy had little energy left.

“I think if I had not responded when I did and arrived in time he would have begun to submerge.”

On the way back to the beach a wave knocked both of them off the board.

“My daughter Jay, who is 15 and also a Wainui surf club member, had come out to back me up on a paddleboard and between the two of us we got the boy back to the beach.

“We checked him out and kept an eye on him for a while until he recovered.

“When he felt better we released him into the care of his friends once we were sure he was OK.”

Mr Ryan said when there was a big south swell, the rip at the northern end of Makorori Beach got really dangerous, and should be permanently signposted.

Mr Ryan won a Community Service Award at the Tairawhiti surf lifesaving awards last year for a rescue he did afterhours at Midway Beach in the summer of 2019-20.

■ The power and speed of the ocean was underlined when an off-duty lifeguard was called into action at Kaiti Beach on Sunday night.

Wainui lifeguard Jess Bridson had just finished patrol that afternoon and she and her partner decided to take their little one to Kaiti Beach for a swim.

Shortly after they arrived and settled down on the sand, Ms Bridson said she saw a couple of young children playing in the water at waist depth.

“Within no more than 20 seconds they were swept off their feet by the big surf and dragged out of their depth,” she said.

The children were carried about 20 to 30 metres off the beach.

“Their father, fully clothed, raced in and grabbed one of them and I grabbed the other one.”

Both children were returned safely to shore.

“Their dad seemed quite shocked by what had happened, and they all left the beach soon after.

“It happened so fast.”

SLSNZ Tairawhiti club development officer Sonia Keepa said with temperatures on the rise again two rescues at the weekend were a timely reminder to stay within your depth and keep children within arm's reach.

“Things happen very quickly in the ocean, especially when there is a bit of surf.

“Remember the 3R's for surviving rips — Raise your hand to alert others you need help; Relax to conserve your energy; Ride the rip until the current has lessened and you can safely swim to the side of the rip and make your way back to the beach.”