Rip Scares Prompt Water Safety Advice

Rip Scares Prompt Water Safety Advice

Same shit, different rip

Dunedin is host to a swathe of beautiful swimming and surfing beaches. However, two recent stories of beach-going students’ near misses with rips have prompted local surf clubs to warn students to stay safe when swimming in the ocean. 

Cam, a second-year Physio student, told Critic of his near-miss with a recent rip after what he hoped would be a quick shred at St Clair. After he had been out for a while, Cam noticed a turn in the conditions and said that he began to head back in. But disaster struck in the form of an absolute bomb, snapping Cam’s ankle strap as his board hit him in the head. Cam was knocked unconscious for several seconds. He estimates that he was at least 200m offshore at the time of the incident. Though Cam had taken precaution, he stated that the snapped ankle strap changed his day “quite drastically.”

It is not just surfers getting in trouble. Two students Tris* and Harry* told Critic that they found themselves in trouble during an early morning swim. Tris said that the 6am pre-lecture sunrise swim started off well enough. “[I] was having a lovely time with my friend. Then it was like the flick of a switch and it got really scary,” she said. She estimated that they were in the water for about five minutes, and then 15-20 in “drowning mode.”

“My friend got behind the rip and swam sideways, got out, then passed out and was found on the beach by a girl who was out early. I was still in the water and fought my way to being able to touch the ground. But I was exhausted and waves kept knocking me back,” said Tris. “My friend went to the hospital for inhaling lots of water and I drove myself home.”

The situation left Tris pretty frightened. “Before this, I had thought of myself as a pretty strong swimmer and had done about 10 years worth of swimming lessons. However, when you are actually in that situation everything leaves your head. Education on water safety is so important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. At least everyone should know what to do if they get caught in a rip.”

To understand how students can better protect themselves in such instances, Critic Te Ārohi reached out to St Clair Surf Life Saving Club. The club told us, “A number of close calls on Dunedin’s beaches have been recorded, leading authorities to warn students of the dangers that the ocean is home to. Whilst these incidents are occurring on patrolled beaches, the issue is that they are often happening outside of patrolled areas and times, introducing unnecessary risk to those involved.”

If you do find yourself in a situation like these students, the club said, “The beach is constantly changing with swell coming and going, rips appearing and disappearing [...] The key thing for students to remember is that if you see someone in trouble, think, ‘Am I going to be able to help or am I going to get in trouble’ before you go in to help. Always ensure help is on the way before going in.” 

Final advice from the club is: “Swim between the flags, never swim alone, and know your limits. If in doubt, stay out. If you are planning on bringing a large group down the beach e.g. O-week, let the local lifeguards know you are coming. If you see anyone in trouble, and lifeguards are not on duty, call 111 and ask for police.” Keep safe team.

*Name changed.

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2024.
Posted 10:06pm Sunday 19th May 2024 by Sam Smith-Soppet.