“Swim between the flags” is a phrase you often hear in New Zealand. It’s quite difficult to warn visitors of the dangerous nature of New Zealand beaches and so they’ve come up with an easy to understand system. If you arrive at a beach and you cannot see any surf lifesavers, who wear the ubiquitous yellow and red uniforms, it means the beach is unpatrolled and somewhat likely to be unsafe for swimming. Patrolled beaches have a core of lifesavers who keep watch on the swimmers, but also on the ever-changing water.
There are strong undercurrents known as rips that can pull unsuspecting swimmers under the water and out to sea. The pull of these rips is beyond even the strongest swimmer, so it is important to take precautions in order to have a great day at the beach. There are signs on many beaches with a picture that shows you how to spot a rip and where it is safe to swim. But the best thing to do when you’ve chosen your beach is to spot the lifesavers and the yellow and red flags. You also need to be aware that the flags are moved as the water changes.
So, keep an eye out that you are still in the safe zone if a little time passes while you are out in the water. Don’t be put off! New Zealand has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and most are not crowded. With a little bit of forethought, a wonderful day out can be had.
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