Waihi Beach lifeguards presented national award for saving surfer who had stroke in the water

Monday, 13 May 2019


Eight Surf Lifesaving New Zealand lifeguards from Waihi Beach have been recognised with the national BP Rescue of the Month at a presentation at Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service, on 12 May.

Nathaniel Palla, Matthew Lloyd, Ben Grant, Jordyn McClennan, Michiel Cumming, Maddie Scown, Dave Grant and Duncan Gibson worked together to save a man who was close to drowning after being struck by a serious stroke while out surfing on 15 February.

Something looked odd to off-duty lifeguard Nathaniel Palla, who found a man barely clinging to his surfboard, and recognised the signs of a stroke.

He called to Duncan Gibson, another off-duty lifeguard who was surfing, asking him to go for help. Then began paddling the surfer back to shore with the help of another surfer, using rescue techniques to keep the man’s head above water, and keep his airway clear from vomit.

“It felt very fortunate that I was out surfing at the time of the incident,” Nathaniel says.

“Right place, right time. As I was already in the water it was a quick reaction time - that can make the difference when someone is having a stroke.”

Being recognised with the award was nice, he says.

“When we get good results like this and messages from families that are affected it makes all the training worthwhile and I am super stoked to get the BP Rescue of the Month award, as it’s such a prestigious award.”

In the club tower lifeguards sprang into action calling 111, and relaying medical directions from the ambulance service back to the lifeguards on the beach. On the beach lifeguards brought out first aid gear, and gave first aid care to the man for about an hour and a half before paramedics arrived.

Lifeguard Matthew Lloyd, 16, who is a level three first aider, says the surfers breathing was shallow when he was brought out of the water. Matthew put an oxygen mask on him, and found the man could communicate by squeezing his hand – important information for those treating him.

“You could tell he was worried. Finding that [way to communicate] was really good because then we could find out more detail about how he was feeling, who he was, and we could look for his family.”

Fighting for someone’s life was surreal, he says, but all the lifeguards knew what needed to be done, and worked together.

The surfer was discharged home from hospital last week, after spending 12 weeks in hospital.

“It was really good to get the updates afterwards,” Matthew says. “It’s a great feeling to know you’ve saved someone’s life… you think about how different things would be for their family otherwise.

“And it’s such a great feeling to get the award and see the support from everybody after a rescue like that.”

The rescued man’s family attended the award presentation, and Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service director of lifesaving James Lloyd says it was special to hear from them.

“It was touching for our guards who were there for the rescue, to meet his family and hear from them. It was nice to have that recognition from the award, and to know he’s out of hospital. Everyone was very emotional.

“We’re just so proud that they were all there and that their training all kicked in when needed. They worked really well together as a team and all played their own part within the rescue.”

Caption:  Top left to right, BP Connect Waihi Assistant Manager Julie Redshaw, Matthew Lloyd, Michiel Cumming, Maddie Scown, BP Bay of Plenty Area Manager Ruth Fisher; front, Jordyn McClennan.


** Photos for Surf Life Saving NZ can be found here.

For more information, please contact:

James Lloyd, Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service director of lifesaving
Phone: 027 564 5456

Karoline Tuckey, for Surf Life Saving NZ communications
Phone: 021 636 647 Email: