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April close down report
The last two weekends of the surflifesaving patrolling season at Surf Patrol Whangarei Heads, Easter and the Anzac weekend were contrasted largely by weather conditions, where Easter was gloomy, and rainy with surf conditions at Ocean Beach moderate to messy, Anzac beachgoers revelled in almost uncharacteristic spring conditions, sunny, warm and almost non existant surf.

The highlight of the season close down had to be "B" patrol's rescue of a patient and his boat, noticed by the Ocean Beach SLSP Lifeguards to be drifting Northwards between Guano rock and Ocean beach in persistant rain, and sea conditions totally out of place for an open tinny.
A well co-ordinated rescue for the Guards, and a good use of the Patrols IRB and Lifeguard skills.
Anzac weekend was very quiet for the guards with the warm sunny conditions signalling the end of the patrolling season for all Surf Patrols in the Northern region (extending from Raglan on the West Coat to Whangarei Heads, the Northernmost East coast Surf Patrol ). Active patrolling return to the beach in October,
Now it's offseason PLAYTIME!!

Early March snapshot

Predominantly onshore, and messy - the patrol day board says it all.
The first couple of patrolling weekends in March has seen the end of the lifeguard season looming in
April. Head counts are dropping as the holiday makers are starting to thin out. Overseas tourists seem largely happy to walk the beach, and head up the local walks either sides of the Ocean Beach. The water is still very warm, but the early March washing machine engine is in full gear and churning away, with the beach usually totally whitewashed right out to the back breakers.

To Lifeguards, all this means, of course, PLAYTIME! The start of patrol mandatory training swim to "check out the currents" usually starts with a swift sideways drift, quickly building to a race to see who can get out the back the quickest. With Julz posting a 400 meters time to beat of 4.35 minutes, and Mark close behind, it's usually a no win situation (for us) between them, and us mortals, who are left to cardio it to get through the impact zone and over the bank, about 150 meters out . It's just, go hard, eventually catch up, try not to lose equipment (or body parts) and (for us old fellas) try not to cardiac arrest in the process of getting "worked" on the bank - the usual story. The parallel swims across the back from rip head to rip head then end in a semi body surf/tumble/thrash back through the wash, where any drops taken are gravity fed in extremis, especially sucking up bigtime on the bank. The split second before taking the drop giving the same sort of feeling that I imagine runs through the mind of a base jumper of the Eiffle tower, with any resemblence to ridable stuff being totally coincidental, in a word "gnarly".

Back on the beach, it's sort out the gear, catch up with a regular breathing rate, do a head count, then grins all round as the after playtime feel kicks in. Big kids-the whole lot of us. How can something be so much fun and be called training?

Jan - Feb at Ocean Beach..
Has been full on for the guards, the trough initially formed 20 metres out, and ran parallel to the beach, proving testing to say the least. The constant problem of body boarders with no flippers, foreign tourists with little knowlege of the surf beach, and swimmers lacking swim skills, was added to by the rapid northward feeder current charging through this trough on the outgoing tide.

The weekend of 4-5 Jan 2003 saw rescues and preventitive actions being rapidly performed side by side, as punters headed northwards and out in a blink of an eye. The going technique is a fast swim out and attachment of the rescue tube and reassure the patient, whose eyes by now are like dinner plates.The boat then whizzing in from a quick beach launch, to pick up the patient, leaving the guard to swim back to the beach. This works really well, with the lifeguards getting to meet new beach goers, and practice their foreign language skills. The weekend of the 12 Jan was pretty much a mess of northerly kick ass washing machine conditions, not condusive to surfing in any form, however the Surf Club held a highly successfull Lifeguard exam that weekend in the "testing" conditions (see pics on page 3 of the monthly news page), proving that there is always something of benefit happening at OB.

The latter part of Jan has seen conditions settling surf wise with a regular 1-1.5 m swell held up by predominant south westerlies. The trough has changed with a large bank forming at the North, and a large hole forming central beach, this now is causing headaches on the outgoing tide as water spills off the bank and follows the natural flow through the hole and ripping more to the right and out. The beach front has steepened resulting in a dumping shorebreak at high tide, as the tide receeds, this spaces out with surfing on the low end of the tide becoming respectable, all we need now is a good ground swell,

February is producing the goods, a close beach break, and clean waves. Conditions are closed out minimally on the low tides, with good rides taken by the patient few. Notable is the eagerly awaited Feb groundswells appearing, but why are they always midweek?

Body Surfing..
Rule #1-wear flippers, Rule #2 - take the drop..OB is steep drops with not much water over the sand with the close out. The OB secret is do like the Lifeguards, after years of research we've found the technique is not to paddle for the wave lip pickup, but to wait for the lift and actually duck down and back to pick up the pressure wave as it bounces off the sand. If this is timed right you'll be picked up and spat out the wave front just under the lip. a) You have to be ready to cut across, and b) which is the down side of this technique, if the wave is already spilling you are totally committed with little chance to button off.. this can hurt.. but, hey, it's a nice hurt. Try it.

Body Boarding,
well, too much like hard work for us simple folk, but OB has bred local Champions like ex Whangarei Heads Lifeguard and world ranked John Lee Diamond who cut his teeth at OB's. He's a good lad. John started surfing as a grom, in his words, "surfing's ok, but you can do more tricks on a lid".

90% of the younger age group we perform rescues on are usually body boarding without flippers.

Wipe out at OB. Pic by Mike Cunningham.

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