Surf Life Saving New Zealand announces winners in the 2019 Awards of Excellence

Monday, 23 September 2019

Awards have been presented to New Zealand’s top surf lifeguard, surf lifesaving volunteer, and the lifeguards responsible for the rescue of the year.

The winners were among the surf lifeguards recognised at the 2019 Surf Life Saving New Zealand Awards of Excellence at Te Papa on Saturday night in Wellington.

Surf Life Saving Senior Executive Matt Warren says the awards celebrate the heroism, commitment and skills of people throughout the country who dedicate their time and effort to volunteering, and keeping Kiwis safe on our beaches.

The daring Christmas Eve 2018 rescue of the crew from the 12 metre motorboat the Mazurka was named the BP Rescue of the Year. The Mazurka was drifting towards a reef during a fierce storm off Gisborne.

The Character Roofing Gisborne Emergency Call-Out squad who responded to the stricken Mazurka crew were able to safely transfer them from the stricken boat to their IRBs (Inflatable Rescue Boats) through huge wave swell, and drive them back to the shore. The squad had only formed earlier in 2018.

At the time of the incident, Constable Andrew Trafford of Tolaga Bay Police told the Gisborne Herald that it was a “truly amazing rescue”.

“It was a great result and could have very easily ended up as a double tragedy,” he said.

Matt says the coordination and expertise needed by the squad members to carry out the difficult rescue are a good example of the education and skills required from lifeguards.

The NZ Lottery Grants Board Lifeguard of the Year award was presented to James Lloyd, Director of Lifeguarding at Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services.

The club says James puts in many hours of hard work to support their strong contingent of lifeguards, and has formed an enthusiastic lifeguard sub-committee, which has been successfully ticking off goals to benefit the club.

TSB International Performance of the Year went to Taranaki lifeguard Zac Reid from Fitzroy SLSC (Surf Life Saving Club), who is a member of the Junior Black Fins team – SLSNZ’s international junior surf sports team. 

Zac contributed nine medals, including six gold, to the haul of 37 won by the team at the Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide in November 2018, where they won the youth world title.

The DHL Volunteer of the Year is Rachelle Bright. She served as Whangamata SLSC’s captain for the past three seasons, says the club’s new captain Max Jones.

In the past year she was a junior surf coach, new lifeguard instructor, and helped organise training courses. Regionally she has been a lesson designer, patrol auditor, instructor and examiner, was chair of the area lifesaving committee, and contributed to peer support.

“For the past 10 years Rachelle has held a range of roles within the club, dedicated herself to the club, implemented new initiatives, and has been a positive influence on all members throughout the entire season,” Max says.

DHL Innovation of the Year award was won by the Wahine on Water team, who brainstormed a way to encourage more women to feel comfortable qualifying as IRB drivers and in other senior roles. They launched a series of women-mentored training days that have now been extended nationally.

There are 74 Surf Life Saving NZ clubs throughout the country, and all are run by volunteers.

“Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s volunteers have had another huge year,” Matt says.  

“The skill level of our people was on show again this season with great rescues, sporting feats and administrative excellence. And we have seen some great new innovations to improve our services, like the Wahine on Water programme, which will see the organisation creating a solid future.

“We have thousands of members that put in a massive amount of work both on the beach and behind the scenes to ensure we keep saving lives. It is great to recognise some of the hardest workers like Rachelle Bright, DHL Volunteer of the Year and James Lloyd, NZLGB Surf Lifeguard of the Year, for the work they have done.”

Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s year runs from July 1 to June 30. For the 2018/19 year, we had 18,832 members, including 4,903 lifeguards. 

In the last year our lifeguards saved 702 people from life-threatening situations, assisted 1,622 people to safety from dangerous situations, took part in 381 searches, provided first aid 2,578 times, and took preventative action to keep people safe at the beach 118,307 times.


2019 SLSNZ Awards of Excellence winners:

Click here to read the full list of citations.

NZLGB Lifeguard of the Year

James Lloyd – Waihi Beach LS

DHL Volunteer of the Year

Rachelle Bright – Whangamata SLSC

BP Rescue of the Year

Gisborne Emergency Callout Squad - Justin Martin, Matt Kemp, Andrew Shelton and Alan Thorpe

TSB Surf Official of the Year

Jo Miller – Papamoa SLSC

DHL Instructor of the Year

Kate Suter – Sumner SLSC

DHL Innovation of the Year

Wahine on Water - Phoebe Havill (Onemana SLSC), Julia Conway (Mount Maunganui LS), Philip Pirie (Mount Maunganui LS) and Paul Hardy (Piha SLSC)

TSB Surf Coach of the Year

John (Spindles) Bryant – Mount Maunganui LS

TSB International Performance of the Year

Zac Reid – Fitzroy SLSC

BP Media Story of the Year

Breakfast, TV 1 - End of Season Wrap Up, 3R’s of Rip Safety & What To Do When Surf Lifeguards Aren’t on Patrol.

Gudsell Trophy

Mairangi Bay SLSC and Mount Maunganui LS

London Trophy

Ngati Porou SLSC

2019 Service Award Winners

Warwick Aiken, Waimairi SLSC

Teri Anderson, Paekakariki SL

Sandra Bednarek, Paekakariki SL

Graham Buck, Mairangi Bay SLSC

Cameron Burrow, St Clair SLSC

Kevin Campbell, Mairangi Bay SLSC

Mark Cresswell, Waimairi SLSC

Steven Franich, Orewa SLSC

Kim Hendrie, Waimairi SLSC

Lynette Imrie, Paekakariki SL

Hannah Laughton, Waimairi SLSC

Anthony Nunnick, Taylors Mistake SLSC

John O’Shaughnessy, Westshore SLSC

Carl Righton, Waimairi SLSC

Mark Scheib, Red Beach SLSC

Lynn Smith, Waimairi SLSC

Chris (Weta) Swain, Westshore SLSC

Graeme Ward, Waimarama SLSC

2019 50 Year Badges

Warwick Aiken

Con Fraser

Rob Jones

Leon Munt

Carol Quirk QSM

Joan Wilson

Grant Morrison

2019 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Adam Fraser, Fitzroy SLSC

Jackie Grant, Mairangi Bay SLSC

Richard Whinham, Paekakariki SL

2019 Life Membership Award Winners

Colin Weatherall QSM, Brighton SLSC                                                     

Jim Warwick, Maranui SLSC

Grant Morrison, Mairangi Bay SLSC




For more information, please contact:

Matt Warren, Surf Life Saving New Zealand Senior Executive

Phone 027 475 7323 or email


Melanie Louden, Surf Life Saving New Zealand Media and Communications Manager

Phone 021 112 5314, or email