Kiwi lifeguard contingent returns from Huntington Beach, California

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A troupe of 45 lifeguards and coaches from Tairua and Piha Surf Life Saving Clubs have returned from time spent on the beach and in the patrol towers at Huntington Beach city, California, on a lifeguard exchange.

The group spent about 18 months before the trip preparing, including fitness and lifeguard training, and fundraising, and left for California on July 7.

The trip was an amazing introduction to lifeguarding in a different country, says 17-year-old Piha lifeguard Eva Williams.

“It was really interesting to see how they run their beaches, and how different that is to New Zealand.“They have 30 or so guard towers along the beach, and then each of the guards watch their own patch, and keep watch on the guards on either side of them too.”

The Kiwi contingent joined the Huntington Beach junior lifeguards programme for morning training sessions, then spent afternoons shadowing a working lifeguard at their tower.

“They call themselves military-based – they use codes on the radios, and in the morning you have to line up in squad lines, and report in the morning,” Eva says. 

“And you call all the teachers sir or ma’am, and if you don’t you have to do push ups. That’s so different to here - we did quite a few push ups, it was good to get fit.” 

The exchange between the countries has been running since 1992, and is eagerly looked forward to by Piha and Tairua juniors as they progress through their lifeguard training.

“Lots of the older lifeguards had all gone on it and told us all about it,” says 16-year-old Piha lifeguard Troy Middleton.

“They always came back saying how fun it was, and such a great experience.

“You’re learning new things with new friends, and you definitely get more dedicated, and you kind of want to prove yourself more.” 

While most of the underlying lifeguarding skills are the same in both countries, both Troy and Eva say the size of the beach and the thousands of people on the sand and in the water each day made for a different and intense lifeguarding experience.

A highlight for each, was training to learn about the Huntington Beach pier, which creates a tricky challenge for lifeguarding.

“Pier rescues were new and interesting - you’ve got to make sure they don’t get close to the pier and grab onto it, because of the barnacles, you can get cut up,” Troy says. 

“We learned to swim around it, and through it, it was cool.”

Friendships formed through the trip were also invaluable, the young lifeguards say. They are looking forward to a visit in January from a group of Huntington Beach junior lifeguards.

Matt Kerr, Tairua Surf Life Saving Club Captain, returned to Huntington on this year’s trip, and says the lifeguard exchange is an invaluable tool to keep young lifeguards invested in volunteering at local clubs at a time when many are heading into the workforce and into tertiary study.

“They’re all active lifeguards, that already dedicate their own time to volunteering to do beach patrols and training. And a lot of these lifeguards that go on the exchange go on to take on leadership roles and dedicate a lot of energy to their clubs. 

“It’s a great programme for showing them what they can achieve, expanding their world, and stoking their enthusiasm for surf lifesaving.”


KiwisAtHuntington.jpg  The Kiwi contingent of surf lifeguards from Piha and Tairua Surf Life Saving Clubs, at Huntington Beach, California.

Classroom.jpg: The Piha and Tairua lifeguards in class at Huntington Beach, California.

Pier.jpg:  The New Zealand lifeguards were taught how to safely swim through a pier, and how to make rescues at piers.

**Media kit:  Please click here for access to Surf Life Saving New Zealand media imagery.


For more information, please contact:

Matt Kerr, Tairua Surf Life Saving Club Captain,
021 2601180,

Brad Laloli, Piha Surf Life Saving Club Huntington exchange team manager,
027 600 2202,