Top Surf Lifeguards tested during National Lifeguard School

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Photo:Stuff/Taranaki Daily News

A “high octane”, “epic” and “absolutely insane” weekend has resulted in 19 of New Zealand’s top volunteer Surf Lifeguards advancing their knowledge and experience even further.

The candidates were all working towards achieving their Advanced Lifeguard Award at Surf Life Saving NZ’s National Lifeguard School. It is the highest Surf Life Saving award available in New Zealand.

The school was held at Fitzroy Surf Life Saving Club from December 6 to 8 and Max Jones from Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club was crowned the “top candidate”.

The volunteer Surf Lifeguards, from as far south as Oreti and as far north as Ruakaka, completed the National Lifeguard School in challenging conditions.

Photos:Stuff/Taranaki Daily News

“The wild weather that battered much of the country over the weekend meant the skills such as rock rescues, advanced IRB skills, search and rescue scenarios were conducted in conditions that tested the lifeguards as well as the instructor and mentor team,” National Member Education Manager Brad O’Leary says.

Between the physically demanding sessions, candidates undertook classroom based learning, team building activities and well-orchestrated patrol, first aid and search scenarios.

Brad says the candidates were put through their paces from start to finish during the “high octane” weekend.

“Early mornings, late nights, high stress situations calling on advanced skills and knowledge honed over the weekend had everyone on their toes – and fatigued throughout.”

Often described by lifeguards as a highlight in their development, Brittany Spencer from Nelson Surf Life Saving Club said the school as an “epic weekend of learning, surf, banter, chuckles and training”. Sonia Keepa from Wainui SLSC said it was an “absolutely insane weekend”.

National Lifeguard School is critical in building the organisation’s life guarding capability across the country, Brad says.

“The National Lifeguard School provides an experience for lifeguards to aspire to; a stepping stone to go on and lead surf lifeguard teams back on their home beaches, throughout their regions and to stoke the fire to push graduates to be the best surf lifeguards they can be.”

Photo:Stuff/Taranaki Daily News

Brad says the school is fortunate to have such an “inspiring team of highly skilled instructors with extensive real life rescue, search and first aid experience to guide our next generation of top lifeguards to be the best they can be”.  

Throughout the weekend, candidates were constantly observed and evaluated by staff and instructors in the search for the top candidate.

The top candidate award recognises the individual who consistently demonstrates the attributes of an advanced lifeguard.

Leadership, team work, diligence, tenacity, knowledge, lifeguarding skills and physical ability are all equally weighted in the consideration.

Head Instructor Seth McPhee says this year’s intake was one of the strongest groups he had seen for many years – if not the strongest across his involvement in the school – so it was always going to be tough to pick an individual for the top honour.

Photo:Stuff/Taranaki Daily News

Some of the skills the Surf Lifeguards learn at National Lifeguard School include:

  • Navigation through rocky waters and rescues from rocks
  • Advanced first aid and patient care
  • Identifying stages of drowning
  • Recognising the body’s emotional and physical responses to crisis
  • Directing rescues while maintaining beach patrols
  • Directing search and rescue operations
  • Leadership and communication in emergency situations
  • Working with emergency agencies.

Candidates for this year’s National Lifeguard School were:

  • Jago Dellow, Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards
  • Thomas Downs, Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards
  • Tarras Rall, Mt. Maunganui Lifeguard Service
  • Jake Hoffart, Omanu Surf Life Saving Club
  • Ryan Hohneck, Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club
  • James Fellows-Ford, Tairua Surf Life Saving Club
  • Georgia Eldridge, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service
  • Lucy Scown, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service
  • Sonia Keepa, Wainui Surf Life Saving Club
  • Max Jones, Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club
  • Joseph Wilson, Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club
  • Rhys Lloyd, Piha Surf Life Saving Club
  • Kevin Hill, Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Patrol
  • Asher Lambert, Kotuku Surf Life Saving Club
  • Brittany Spencer, Nelson Surf Life Saving Club
  • Timothy Ball, Oreti Surf Life Saving Club
  • Jackson Aluesi, St. Clair Surf Life Saving Club
  • Mikayla Garforth, St. Clair Surf Life Saving Club
  • Luke Smith, Taylors Mistake Surf Life Saving Club
  • Sarah McNaughton, Warrington Surf Life Saving Club.

Instructors and Mentors for this year were:

  • Head Instructor – Seth McPhee, Brighton Surf Life Saving Club
  • Instructor – Chris Harrison, Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Life Saving Club
  • Instructor – David Clarke, United North Piha Surf Life Saving Club
  • Instructor – Adam Fraser, Fitzroy Surf Life Saving Club
  • Instructor – Kate Suter, Sumner Surf Life Saving Club
  • Instructor – James Lloyd, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service
  • Mentor – Tom Denman, Sumner Surf Life Saving Club
  • Mentor – Nicholas Wagstaff, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service
  • Mentor – Sophrose London, Otaki Surf Life Saving Club
  • Mentor – Toni Cranko, Sumner Surf Life Saving Club.


For more information, please contact:

Melanie Louden

Media and Communications Manager

Surf Life Saving NZ

021 757 433