Water safety has never been so critical, especially at the beach

Kathiravelu Ganeshan

A coracle is a light boat made by weaving reeds or grass into a bow shape and waterproofing it.  Coracles have been in use in India from pre-historic times and are called ‘Parisal’ in Tamil and ‘Korakallu’ in Kannada.

These are still in use in India for fishing, transport and are a major tourist attraction at the Hogenakkal falls on the Kaveri river in Tamil Nadu.

Coracles have also been in use for millennia in the British Isles.

Julius Caesar discovered the coracle when he invaded Britain.

Professor in a Coracle

A Professor was researching the way of life in small river-side Indian villages and the relationship between the river and the people. He often crossed the river from one village to another in a coracle. During these crossings, the Professor often lectured the boatman about the importance of education. He even went as far as telling this boatman that he had wasted half his life by not pursuing education.

Did you learn to swim?

On the Professor’s last crossing before his trip to the nearest rail station and back to his University in the city with all his research data, rain in the distant hills caused the river to swell and the waters became turbulent.

The coracle was about to capsize.

The boatman asked the Professor if he knew how to swim.

The Professor replied saying that did not learn how to swim.

Should the uneducated boatman risk his own life, the half that he has not yet wasted, to save the educated Professor’s life? Without hesitation, he did, and the Professor left the river alive and with a new perspective on life, even though all his research data was swallowed by the river.

Dangerous beaches of New Zealand

New Zealand has 15000 km of coastline, the ninth longest in the world.

There are many beaches and lakes, some quite safe and others with strong rips.

Several West Coast beaches, including Piha and Muriwai are some of the most dangerous in the world.

The Hot Water Beach is another dangerous beach.

All three are also popular tourist attractions, Piha with its Lion Rock, Muriwai with its gannet colony and Hot Water Beach with its hot springs where you can dig a hole in the ground at low tide and relax in your own natural spa.

At these and other beaches, one can be dragged out to sea while standing in less than waist-deep water.

Television programmes Piha Rescue and Danger Beach Muriwai help highlight the dangers of these beaches. Often, it is tourists and migrants, including those from India, who get into trouble at these beaches.

Faster than Phelps

Even if one can swim like an Olympian, it is impossible to swim against rip currents, as these currents can reach up to two meters per second and even Michael Phelps cannot swim that fast.

Therefore, it is important to understand rip currents, be able to spot these and know what to do if you get caught in one, before you get into the water at such beaches.

Learn to swim

Indeed, you need to know how to swim first.

“New Zealand is a Playground,” as one of my friend’s father once noted when he visited New Zealand from India. We love the water and there is so much we can do in and on the water.

Therefore, it is important to learn to swim.

It is not that hard to learn to swim, if you have a good coach.

You can learn at any age, just make sure to choose your coach carefully.

Safety is paramount

During Summer, I bodyboard in Muriwai.

Often, I see people get into the water with very little knowledge or understanding of the risks and go ‘out of their depth’ and get into trouble and being rescued.

I will be happy if this article helps people stay safe and not get into trouble at these beaches, by knowing about rips and behaving sensibly.

Remember, you can get sucked out to sea even when you are standing in knee deep water.

Kathiravelu Ganeshan is a self-motivated, self-disciplined man, resident in New Zealand for the past 21 years. Now 68, he leads an active life, encouraging people to follow some simple measures to remain healthy. We hope to carry more articles from him in future issues.

Photo : 

  1. The Coracle was in use in many part of India and Britain
  2. The Muriwai Beach near Auckland is one of the most dangerous beaches in New Zealand


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