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Beach weather could undermine ‘stay at home’ message

August 26, 2020

Beach weather could undermine ‘stay at home’ message

MAINLY HARDY TYPES ARE OUT DURING LOCKDOWN SO FAR. PHOTO: JORGE LUIS PEREZ. LICENCE: CC BY-ND 2.0

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand is getting ready for a summer where life on the beach may look very different to last year.

Warmer weather on the horizon could make it even harder for people to stay home if there is another lock down.

Allan Mundy, national lifesaving manager at Surf Lifesaving New Zealand said that clear messaging will be key to gain the buy-in from the public, but this hasn’t always happened in overseas countries they have observed.

“We are concerned that some will follow what ill-informed [people] have done overseas: flock to the beaches and all manner of social distancing seems to have disappeared. [If] that kind of behaviour predominates then we as a country are at risk,” he said.

The organisation is in consultation with the Ministry of Health, St John Ambulance, the New Zealand Police and their own staff and volunteers to develop a strategy to manage public safety.

Revised Level 3 guidelines say experienced surfers can go to their local break and swimming should be in safe local spots.

Mr Mundy said there had been fewer people in the water during the level 3 and 4 lock downs and they tended to be more confident swimmers   .

“The key people we are concerned about in any beach environment are the ones who don’t go to that environment on a usual basis. They aren’t able to identify the risks.   That    seems to get them into trouble.”

Seasoned surfer Shamus Stewart-Sergeant has been chasing waves to the far-flung coasts of the Auckland region, without crossing a checkpoint.

“I’ve been surfing from Tāwharanui and Te Arai all the way to Piha, Karekare and Muriwai.”

Mr Stewart-Sergeant was surprised at the number of people at Piha and Muriwai, not all of whom could have been local.

“I feel like it’s what’s been expected in second lockdown, people are going to blur the lines of restrictions.”

He said that travelling across the region had a dystopian feel and a strong police presence, but visited the locations because they have the best surf.

“You’ve gotta find a wave.”

The New Zealand surfing season officially starts next month.

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