Keeping it in the family - Oceans' 20

Monday, 24 February 2020

The Jones family are at home at the beach, from left Ally, 19, Ava, 14, Gubby, 2, Rachel, Mickey, 15, PJ and front, Hatti, 12.

For the Jones family Surf Life Saving isn’t just a volunteer role, or a sport. It’s a lifestyle.

This week Peter (PJ) Jones and his family will once again be making the journey from their Porirua home to Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach for Surf Life Saving NZ’s largest sports event for junior club members.

Oceans’ 20 is being held from February 27 to March 1, for 10 to 14 year olds, and PJ, his wife Rachel and their five daughters will be there competing, volunteering, supporting and cheering.

Ally, 19, and Mickey 15 will be volunteering at the event. Ava, 14, and Hatti, 12, will be competing, while Gabriella (Gubby), at age 2, will be there as the team mascot.

This year will be the eighth time the family has attended the Oceans’ competition.

2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the event which teaches kids important life saving and beach safety skills through sport, with the goal of them all becoming qualified surf lifeguards.

It is “sport with a purpose”.

Mickey, pictured competing at the Central Region Championships in 2018, will be volunteering at Oceans' 20.

PJ joined Surf Life Saving when he was 10 years old and was heavily involved until his early 20s.

He took part on and off until his daughters got into it. Now it’s a full-time affair for the family at Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards club.

The family attended their first Oceans’ event in 2013 when their oldest daughter Ally was 12 years old.

Ever since there has been one or two Jones daughters competing every year.

“Oceans’ has been run in challenging conditions over the years. But it’s a neat environment for the kids. It’s a great way to spend four days at the beach,” PJ says.

“It teaches them a lot about themselves, about triumph and adversity. When you’re faced with a two metre wave, you’ve got some choices to make.”

PJ says Surf Life Saving is “more of a lifestyle than a sport”.

“It’s something the whole family can get involved in. We’re at the club five or six days a week.”

Ava joined the Nippers/Junior Surf programme as a 7-year-old and will be competing at her fourth and final Oceans’ event this weekend.

Oceans' 20 will be Ava's fourth and final Oceans' event.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s different every time – the atmosphere changes every year, and you get to meet a whole lot of people.”

Ava gained her Surf Lifeguard Award at the start of the 2019-2020 patrol season and carried out seven patrols over summer.

“It’s been really cool. I’ve been watching out for little kids between the flags and people come up to the club asking questions.”

Mickey has competed in Oceans four times and is now in her second year of being an arena volunteer.

Before she was old enough to compete at Oceans she did two years as a "runner", helping the officials by running results and papers to and from arenas (before technology allowed iPads and electronic marshalling and results).

Ally joined Surf Life Saving as an 11-year-old and has since taken part in two Oceans’ competitions and six TSB New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships (Nationals).

Ally, left, competing in a carnival in 2019.

She became a Surf Lifeguard at the age of 14 and this summer worked as a seasonally employed Surf Lifeguard in Wellington.

Ally says Oceans’ is a big deal for young kids and she enjoyed her weekends there so much that she now volunteers – just so she can keep going. 

“Nationals is very different, but it is still really awesome. You grow up with a lot of those people.

“They’re your ‘summer family’ that you hang out with.”

When Ally competed in her first TSB Nationals event at Ohope at the age of 15, she was involved in a rescue that earnt her a service award.

Hatti, pictured competing at the Central Region Championships 2019.

“The surf was unbelievable – it was huge,” she says.

“It was during the diamond race [swim, board and run] and as I was going out in the swim section I saw someone in front of me. I thought, I must be going fast, I’m catching up to her really quickly.

“Then I realised she wasn’t swimming. I could see she was being washed by the waves. She had tried to put her hand up but she was so weak she couldn’t hold it up long enough for the IRB to see her.”

Ally took herself out of the race, grabbed on to the competitor and called out to the safety team in the IRB.

She helped get the girl into the IRB, but declined a ride back to shore with them.

“I really wanted to finish the race. I was dead last.

“I was just doing what anyone else would have done. That’s why we become lifeguards – to help people.”

Oceans’ is a junior sporting competition that celebrates Surf Lifeguards in the making.

It began in 2000 and has grown to become the organisation’s largest Surf Life Saving event for junior club members, typically attracting anywhere from 800 to 1000 competitors each year.

The participants are lifeguards in training. They are building up the fitness and skills to be a fully qualified Surf Lifeguard at 14 years old. Oceans’ brings them all together in a fun, safe and competitive environment.

Gabriella (Gubby), at age 2, will be at Oceans' 20 as team mascot for the Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards.


Event name: Oceans’ 20

Where: Mount Maunganui - Main Beach

When: Thursday, 27 February to Sunday, 1 March 2020


  • 823 competitors
    • 440 girls
    • 383 boys
  • 46 of 74 NZ Surf Life Saving Clubs taking part + 1 Australian club.

Age groups:

  • U11
  • U12
  • U13
  • U14

Individual events:

  • Sprint
  • Flags
  • Run Swim Run
  • Surf Race
  • Diamond Race (swim, board and run)
  • Board Race

Team events:

  • Beach Relay
  • 2km Beach Relay
  • Board Relay
  • Grand Cameron Relay (6 person run, swim, board paddle event)
  • Tube Rescue and Board Rescue

 Competing clubs:

  • Bethells Beach SLSP
  • Brighton SLSC
  • East End SLSC
  • Fitzroy SLSC
  • Foxton SLSC
  • Kawana Waters SLSC, Queensland, Australia
  • Lyall Bay SLSC
  • Mairangi Bay SLSC
  • Maranui SLSC
  • Midway SLSC
  • Mt Maunganui Lifeguard Service
  • Muriwai VLS
  • New Brighton SLSC
  • New Plymouth Old Boys SLSC
  • Ocean Beach Kiwi SLSC
  • Omaha Beach SLSC
  • Omanu SLSC
  • Opunake SLSC
  • Orewa SLSC
  • Otaki SLSC
  • Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards
  • Papamoa SLSC
  • Pauanui SLSC
  • Piha SLSC
  • Pukehina Surf Rescue
  • Raglan SLSC
  • Red Beach SLSC
  • Ruakaka SLSP
  • South Brighton SLSC
  • Spencer Park SLSC
  • St Clair SLSC
  • St Kilda SLSC
  • Sumner SLSC
  • Taylors Mistake SLSC
  • Titahi Bay SLSC
  • Waihi Beach LS
  • Waikanae SLSC
  • Waikuku Beach SLSC
  • Waimairi SLSC
  • Waimarama SLSC
  • Wainui SLSC
  • Waipu Cove SLSC
  • Westshore SLSC
  • Whakatane SLSC
  • Whangamata SLSC
  • Whiritoa LS
  • Worser Bay LSC

For more information, or to arrange accreditation to attend the event, please contact:

Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving New Zealand
021 757 433