Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Floating the idea

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  • Danielle, in reply to Pat Hackett,

    I live at neither the "Avondale end" nor the "Westgate end" of west Auckland. I live, in fact, on the road to Piha. :) (I did grow up in Mairangi Bay, incidentally, but escaped.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3656 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Alastair Jamieson,

    Alastair J - waua, waka on the beach - and lookit those whare! Cheers!

    Ben Austin - for small North Otago schools, the story ending is not good - but there is an excellent aquatic centre in Oamaru itself-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Pat Hackett,

    I notice that kids that grew up at Piha, Bethells or Muriwai don't regard any of those beaches treachery as much of a big deal. A bit like farm kids who grow up with guns and quad-bikes.

    I also notice that the lifeguards at those beaches work harder than just about anywhere else.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • lynne walker,

    Hi, I agree with Russell. If the "beautiful' inner suburb beaches get $9 million spent on them with no individual local cost , swimming pools shouls be free in areas that need that- maybe in all of Auckland. Sure it is so everyone can have access to learning how to swim/ water confidence, but also so it's so people can have access to interesting and healthy things to do that are close to home. When it is hot and humid everyone should have access to a chance to swim, no matter where you live and no matter if you have a car and money to pay for petrol or not.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2011 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand,

    The idea that many children today in NZ will not learn to swim because of school pool closure disturbs me. I fondly remember many great school pool days and support free swimming pools and lessons for long term physical, mental and community health reasons.

    I taught myself to swim aged 5/6 and consider myself very fortunate that this opportunity was even possible. The sea water was warm and clear and I was equipped with a kid sized mask and snorkel. However the key factor is that I was highly motivated. Motivated to follow the many brightly coloured tropical fish zipping and darting through the shallows of coral reefs in Samoa.

    Alas back in NZ of 1980 a 7/8 year old who could comfortably swim 100 metres+ did not receive a sinlge swimming merit certificate because the volunteer bureacracy of the local swimming pool could not accommodate this outlier.

    Swimming/Surfing is my mental saviour. A meditative highly ritualised process where I can cleanse away lifes discomforts, such as having never received a ‘Dolphin’ certificate.

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    (I did grow up in Mairangi Bay, incidentally, but escaped.)

    The house I grew up in got turned into a childcare facility. Apparently my old bedroom is used for changing nappies or something. </bitter>

    Since Nov 2006 • 6180 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I always loved Piha. Getting a pounding there always left me with an exhilarated afterglow. But I won't be taking the kids there any time soon.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to BenWilson,

    We’ve taken ours to Piha, but not for some time, and you have to pick your days if you want to go in the water.

    A few days after Christmas we went with a few others to Muriwai, and it was surprising to me that the beach was open for swimming at all, with a real surging tide, and rips running in and out as the waves broke and receded.

    There were a few Darwinian rock fisherman, with waves lapping menacingly at their feet, and one seemed almost like he was taunting both the ocean and the many people lined up shaking their heads.

    The patrolled area of the beach between the ‘flags’ was about 30 metres, with one lifeguard on the beach frantically blowing a whistle every time someone ventured out of the zone. Our kids were eager to get in the waves, so my wife went swimming with them, while I stood with other parents doing constant head counts and ready to scream at the lifeguard should anything happen. Futility personified. At one time I was standing about thigh deep and one of ours came past in the surge. I had my feet buried in the sand and tried to grab her, but there was no way I could, so I watched as she travelled in, and then was dragged out again, all the time squealing with joy.

    They were never out of their depth, and there were 100 other people around them (making the head counting quite tricky), but the element of danger was real, and it was quite pleasing that the youngest decided it wasn’t for her and went to build sand castles.

    What I would like is for them to develop both confidence in, and respect for water, waves and the ocean, and to be able to understand rips, and how to float in the water while waiting for help, if needed. That will take a lot of lessons, but if it saves their lives, then it’s worth every penny, whether the council pays for it, or it comes out of my own pocket.

    It certainly seems like a socially responsible thing to afford lessons for those who are unable to cover these costs themselves, or whose schools have closed their pools, no doubt due to falling Government funding.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    To Ben and Danielle: I feel you. All those West Coast beaches are horrendously dangerous, and I really don’t understand why – unless you’re a surfer – you would want to go in the water at all. In the shallows maybe. As you say, Recordari, if you're going in with kids, you better keep those eyes peeled.
    I’m not normally afraid of water, I’m what you’d call a water baby, but a few years ago, we took my English sister in law’s parents out to Piha. I was standing with my, at that time, very young niece at the water’s edge with our toes in the water. When the water sucked out, it did so strongly enough to have bowled her off her feet if I wasn’t holding her hand, and then surged back in so strongly, it washed past my knees. Caught me completely by surprise. Luckily by that stage, I had picked her up, And I am not ashamed to say that I got out of there very fast, with her clutched to my hip.
    I watch Piha Rescue avidly and it gives me the shits that there are people swimming there who obviously 1) are not strong swimmers or 2) cannot swim at all. I understand tourists go out there, – it is, after all, a beautiful stretch of beach – but shouldn’t there be some sort of advisory on a NZ website somewhere that tells people emphatically that if they cannot swim, don’t start doing so at Piha? When you go out to Muriwai, very few people go out further than the shallows. Perhaps more locals go there?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Hmm, Jackie, I suspect you now think I'm completely insane. In my defence, our girls have all had regular lessons, and are strong swimmers.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to recordari,

    No! I don’t think you’re insane at all. You were in the water, you were watching, they were having fun. What’s insane about that? I was afraid that my post was a bit judgey pants, and now I know that it came off a bit like that. I was just empathising with Danielle and Ben re their Piha feelings. I am a huge fan of non coddley parenting, believe me. So many important skills are not being learned by children today because their parents are afraid to let them do what’s completely natural for children – explore, discover, and scare themselves a little. I am hoping that you can come to mine, and bring your girls. They will LOVE the pool. And also? Headcounting other people and their kids? That's above and beyond, my friend.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    So many important skills are not being learned by children today because their parents are afraid to let them do what’s completely natural for children – explore, discover, and scare themselves a little.

    Yes, having been guilty of this in other areas myself, I shouldn't complain too much. Unfortunately the swimming is over for this summer for our bravest of swimmers as she broke an arm after falling off a bloody swing in a perfectly innocuous play park. There is not enough cotton wool in the world to mollycoddle your kids to complete safety.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My earliest memory of Piha is being torn from my feet by a receding wave, and the adult who was looking after me swinging me up in the air away from it. I felt totally powerless, and astonished that water only up to my waist could do that. I learned surf swimming at much safer beaches before I was allowed (or willing) to venture into Piha again.

    But when I did, I loved it, it was extreme. You have to be able not just to swim, but to cope with being tumbled in the water, and occasionally being held under. These are very advanced swimming skills.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to BenWilson,

    These are very advanced swimming skills.

    Hope this doesn't come across as smug, but one of the most joyous memories this summer, which has otherwise been a bastard, all things being treacle, was catching a wave alongside my child and body surfing into the beach. This was on Waiheke and more benign, but it was still fantastic. If what you say is true, then seems those lessons have really paid off already.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to recordari,

    I have to say, J, that I do so love hearing about kids conquering hard shit. It means they have learned perseverance, not something that seems to be greatly valued these days.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to recordari,

    Man, I wish I knew you were going there, we were probably on the same beach on the same day, could have met up. And no, it's not smug to be happy about and proud of teaching advanced water skills to your children. I was similarly stoked to have been able to lure my eldest into surf at Onetangi, for him to experience his first wave knockdown, and not to have run away crying and vowing never to return*. He didn't go so deep again, but he did linger around in the shallows, leaping about excitedly whenever he caught sight of me bodysurfing, and playing chase with the waves.

    *I wish I could say the same of my wife. I made the mistake of introducing her to NZ surf at Raglan, not realizing that she had never been in anything like it before. A "small" wave, about chest height, knocked her head over heels because she tried to run from it, and she bruised her coccyx, was furious with me, and has never ventured into surf since. My excuse is that she claimed she had been in surf before, but I'm pretty sure now she simply had a totally different idea to me of what that actually meant.

    She's a good example of someone who can technically swim, but is not really safe in the ocean. That's why basic swimming lessons are not sufficient for real water safety, you really need a lot more exposure than she's had, the musculature and confidence build up quite slowly. I actually think if you don't get it young, you'll probably never get it at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I know there is a need to keep from over protecting children, but the point at which they need to explore a water environment and perform feats of daring is after they’ve gained considerable proficiency in the water.

    Before kids can swim they should be within an arm’s reach and watched. After that, then get adventurous.

    This is one of the places where I used to swim- Lynn Canyon, in North Vancouver- the water’s beautiful for swimming, like rainwater.

    The more adventurous leaping I left to the boys, who have done this for generations. My young friend James here is doing a 100 foot leap, which is even higher (by a good 30 feet) than the kids in my day. We didn’t have a gaggle of tourists watching, though.

    Love the helmet cam.


    And the fine tradition of the waterslides goes on. Hint: the dangerous part is not the rocks, as long as you roll at the right spot. The dangerous part is the foamy water, you want to do this in late summer, when the water’s running low.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    I apologise if this is a repeat as I have not read the previous 5 pages of posts. I have just finished design/printing work on a new learn to swim programme for school children that is focussed on the Manukau area. I have also worked previously on a large school programme in the 1990s. Schools are the place to catch kids at a young age and teach them to swim. They are a captive audience, there is a pool (not as many as there used to be but lots of schools still have them - another whole topic in itself), and there are the programmes available that make it easy to teach kids water safety. There is little need to argue over social/geographical/financial boundaries. What is missing is adequate funding (surprise surprise) and the political will to make it happen. The focus is entirely on reading writing rithmatic and anything outside of the "national standards" is considered a distraction these days.
    Kids don't go to the public pools in the weekend to learn to swim, they go to have fun, jump, dive, brawl with friends, etc. Yes, they could go and have proper lessons but then you come back to funding and access. School-based swimming programmes can fix these problems quickly and effectively, given the chance.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 260 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to BenWilson,

    It means they have learned perseverance, not something that seems to be greatly valued these days.

    True dat. The one with a broken arm recently learnt how to ride a ripstik, which she got for $1 in a garage sale. Not even sure the laws of physics allow for that possibility, so it is pure perseverance.

    Man, I wish I knew you were going there, we were probably on the same beach on the same day, could have met up.

    Was this last weekend, and we mainly swam at Palm Beach, with one swim at Onetangi on Sunday before coming home. Still a fantastic place to holiday, and so close to town.

    I really must do some work. Can you all stop being so interesting. ;-)

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to recordari,

    Hope this doesn’t come across as smug, but one of the most joyous memories this summer, which has otherwise been a bastard, all things being treacle, was catching a wave alongside my child and body surfing into the beach.

    Hearing you 100%. I've had really golden moments of fatherhood when I've nailed the same wave as one (or both) of the boys and we've raced up the beach together on the boogie boards, whooping for joy. It's just pure, unencumbered fun.

    We did a Muriwai trip this month and it was fun, but not quite the same as it used to be. I'm getting too old for it, frankly -- every time I get dumped I think, not without cause, that I've hurt my back or something. Ah, well ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to recordari,

    Man, I wish I knew you were going there, we were probably on the same beach on the same day, could have met up.

    Was this last weekend, and we mainly swam at Palm Beach, with one swim at Onetangi on Sunday before coming home. Still a fantastic place to holiday, and so close to town.

    Nah, really? We were at Palm Beach early afternoon on Saturday, after the market. Then we had a really refreshing high-tide dip over at Rocky Bay before getting back on the ferry. Wonderful day.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Nah, really? We were at Palm Beach early afternoon on Saturday, after the market.

    Seriously? We were at the same market, same beach, but stayed another night, having fish and chips from the Palm Beach store. Where the playlist had me on a nostalgic trip;

    The English Beat - Mirror in the Bathroom
    The Pretenders - Brass in pocket
    The Cure - A Forest

    I was like 'dude you stole my iPod'. Nice Scallops, I might add.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I’m getting too old for it, frankly – every time I get dumped I think, not without cause, that I’ve hurt my back or something.

    It’s not your age, it’s the surf Russell. If you get separated from your boogie board, it dumps you on the top of your head with thousands of kilos of force, and hopefully the bottom of the ocean is just a few feet further below you …

    This is particular point always being made by Paul – as a physiotherapist and he sees a lot of neck/shoulder/back injuries from being dumped by surf. And the injuries Paul treats, they’re the good outcomes. It’s quite easy to break your neck that way, if you get separated from your boogie board. Which is best reinforced with fibreglass – we hear of people whose styrofoam boogie board – along with their neck – snaps if the wave dumps them in too shallow water at the wrong angle.

    Boogie boarding is pretty safe, but njury-wise, body surfing would be a whole lot more dangerous than the waterslides of Lynn Canyon, as their nature tends to encourage a very cautious type of play which doesn’t lull you into a false sense of safety.

    A boogie board (one reinforced with fibreglass) will go a long way to preventing a snapped neck. Just don't let go if it.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    I am a huge fan of non coddley parenting, believe me.

    However, in the case of Muriwai, Piha, and the other usual suspects, the life guards would really much rather that you coddled your children to within an inch of being publicly disowned. "We're not here to be your babysitters" is one of the regular messages that comes away from Piha Rescue, along with "This beach is really, really bloody dangerous if you don't know about ocean swimming."
    I think SLSNZ would do well to put up big multi-lingual signs along the road frontages at those beaches, with a message along the lines of "Sea conditions at this beach can be difficult, and require experience. Novice swimmers should go no further than waist depth, remain between the flags, and be prepared to leave the water."
    Or, in a less-politic fashion, "Respect the water at this beach, or be prepared to drown."

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3908 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    That's why basic swimming lessons are not sufficient for real water safety, you really need a lot more exposure than she's had, the musculature and confidence build up quite slowly. I actually think if you don't get it young, you'll probably never get it at all.

    It amazes me to recall my confidence as a teenager, swimming and body-surfing with my mates in big surf on Canterbury beaches. Occasionally I'd get in a place I didn't like, but I never really got into anything I couldn't get out of. I must have been a fit little bastard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

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