Surf lifeguards are increasingly seeing people entering the water with toys that may put themselves or others at risk and are not intended for the ocean.
Paul Dalton, managing director of Surf Life Saving, said that when many types of ride-on toys are brought to beaches, they can easily be caught by wind or currents, and people can be blown out to sea.
“Motorized, wind-powered, or pool toys like blow-up…everything from unicorns to swans are pretty common,” he said.
Police were called on Omaha Beach near Warkworth yesterday when a three-year-old child drifted out to sea on a lilo.
A member of the public rescued the toddler by boat.
Dalton said people should try to swim on a patrolled beach and between the flags as much as possible and be prepared for the conditions when going to the beach.
In the past two months, the number of drownings has increased dramatically, he said.
Statistics from Water Safety NZ as of 23rd December show there have been 66 preventable fatal drownings to date, including 26 since early October.
Dalton believes people, particularly in Auckland, have been desperate to get out on the water after lockdown so close to the summer.
He said it’s great to get outside and hit the beach, but it’s a reminder that the virus isn’t the only safety threat this summer.
“Don’t take chances, big waves are a safety threat and they might be fun to surf, but if they hit your head or knock you off your board or slam you into rocks, there’s tremendous power in them.
“It’s very important to pay attention to the conditions and if in doubt, stay out.”