Bravery & Quick Thinking Wins Titahi Bay SLSC Third Place for Rip Rescue

Friday, 18 December 2020

Press release

December 18, 2020

A rescue conducted during an off-season Surf Lifeguard refresher has landed Titahi Bay SLSC in third place for bp Rescue of the Month.

It was the end of Titahi Bay SLSC’s annual Lifeguard Refresher and sea conditions were challenging, to say the least. A large swell was rolling in with a high spring tide starting to turn and a strong north-westerly onshore wind.

Surf Lifeguards J’Adoube Elkington and Mac van den Heuval were using an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) to collect swim buoys as they packed up for the day. Suddenly, they spotted a member of the public running towards them from the north end of the beach, waving his arms and gesturing to the north.

They dropped the buoy and swiftly navigated the IRB to the north end of the beach, where they could see a group of people from the local fishing club waving and pointing towards a group of three fully-clothed adolescent girls struggling at the head of a permanent – and notorious - rip. 

Elkington navigated the IRB to the first two girls and pulled them into the IRB – a task made more difficult by the fact the terrified girls were clinging to each other. As they pulled these two aboard, van den Heuval saw the third girl lose consciousness, slip beneath the water and drift rapidly away from the IRB.  Without any time to grab a rescue tube (which would have meant taking his eyes of the submerged girl) van den Heuval immediately jumped from the IRB into the rip and swam to the third girl to secure her while Elkington pulled the other two into the IRB and navigated back to van den Heuval and the third girl.   

Van den Heuval’s rapid response was critical in this instance; it is very likely that his decision to put himself at risk by entering a very dangerous patch of water without a rescue tube made the difference between life and death for this young patient. The rip was moving at the pace of a fast-running river and, with this girl already unresponsive and underwater, it’s likely she was seconds away from disappearing.

With all three patients carefully positioned aboard the IRB, Elkington and van den Heuval transported them to the clubhouse. Several other Surf Lifeguards were on-hand to administer first aid to the girls while they waited for ambulance officers to arrive.

This rescue happened outside of patrol season. It was an extremely lucky coincidence that Surf Lifeguards were actively training at the time and that an IRB was in the water when the incident occurred. Without the alignment of these events, the outcome would likely have been tragic.

“The skills and dedication shown by the Surf Life Saving team in the course of this incident is an example of the great work Surf Lifeguards do on and off the water,” says bp NZ Managing Director, Debi Boffa.

“It’s a privilege to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for 52 years.”

As the third-place recipient of bp Rescue of the Month, Titahi Bay SLSC will be recognised with $200-worth of bp gift vouchers.


RELAX and float to conserve your energy: The rip will not pull you under the water and is just taking you for a ride offshore. Try to fight the urge to swim back to shore against the current – this will use up energy that you need to stay afloat until help arrives.

RAISE your hand to signal for help: Signal for help by putting your hand up to attract attention from lifeguards, surfers or someone on the beach who can get help.

RIDE the rip until it stops and you can swim back to shore or help arrives: Remain floating until the current weakens. Many rips will circulate and bring you back into shallower waters closer to the shore where you may be able to stand. Only if and when the current has subsided, and you are sure you can swim to the nearest point on the shore, should you attempt to swim to safety.


If there are lifeguards on patrol, let them know. If you can’t see any lifeguards, CALL 111 & ASK FOR THE POLICE. They have a direct line to our emergency call-out squads across New Zealand and Coastguard NZ as well.



SLSNZ is the national association representing 74 surf lifesaving clubs with 18,000+ members, including more than 4,500 volunteer Surf Lifeguards. Our lifeguards patrol over 90 locations each summer and provide emergency call-out rescue services throughout Aotearoa, saving hundreds of lives each year and ensuring thousands return home safe after a day at the beach.

We do all this as a charity and rely on the generosity of the public, commercial partners, foundations and trusts for donations and financial contributions in order to lead and support our incredible front-line volunteer lifeguarding services.

For more information, please contact:

Mackenzie Koppel
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433