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'Even Dwayne The Rock Johnson can't swim against a rip', lifeguard warns Kiwis ahead of summer

As New Zealand tackles appalling drowning fatalities among males, lifeguards are urging people to challenge the country’s “tough guy” mentality with a bit of help from strongman Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

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Surf Life Saving NZ’s Allan Mundy says “even Dwayne The Rock Johnson can’t swim against a rip”. Source: Breakfast

Surf Life Saving New Zealand want Johnson in on their “#SaveTheMales” campaign to encourage males to think twice about engaging in risky behaviour around the water.

National search rescue manager Allan Mundy told TVNZ1's Breakfast people often took the sea for granted.

He said this meant people headed out into the water alone, overestimated their swimming ability and didn't look at the weather conditions before heading out. 

“The thing about Dwayne is that he’s a lifeguard in Baywatch and he’s pretty strong, but even Dwayne can’t swim against the rip," Mundy said.

"You’re not as strong as the sea.”

He asked people to take photos with cutouts of The Rock on the beach with the hashtag #SaveTheMales to get Johnson to join in their sharing of beach safety messages.

“We see that he resonates with our people,” Mundy said of Johnson. 

Over the past 10 years, 89 per cent of beach and coastal drowning fatalities were male, with Māori and Pasifika people overrepresented in the statistic.  

“The solutions are actually really, really simple.”

He said males needed to become leaders in safety. 

“You’ve got to man up to your mate and say ‘Hey, bro, put one on [a life jacket]. I’m wearing one, why aren’t you?’”

Mundy said if people get caught in a rip, they should lie back and wait for a lifeguard. 

He said deep holes and calm-looking water could warn people about where rips were located. 

As a lifeguard, Mundy said witnessing a drowning was “horrific”. 

“The thing that sticks in all our minds when we’re in the middle of working on someone is the wailing of the family. The people who are there witnessing that person passing. 

“That’s the hardest thing that lifeguards have to deal with because we’ve let someone down.”