Christchurch teen to use scholarship to help save lives at sea

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A Christchurch surf lifesaver has won a scholarship to Gold Coast’s Bond University to design a more efficient rescue paddle board.

Sebastian Fergusson, 18, pictured, will study a Bachelor of Business while developing his idea under a Transformer Scholarship for student entrepreneurs.

Mr Fergusson has competed in surf lifesaving since the age of seven.

He has won a gold and a bronze medal at the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships, and made three finals at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.

Mr Fergusson, who was a member of the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club said his long-term goal was to set up a company to redesign the traditional surf lifesaving rescue paddle board.

“Like gears on a bike, I believe the paddle board design can be more efficient,” Mr Fergusson said.

“Gears on a bike, you’re climbing up a hill, you chop down a gear, it makes it easier.

“I believe if we can lower the deck of the paddle boards we use, it’s going to get more of your arm in the water so you can pull more water, so you’re not focusing on how many strokes you can do, you can worry about lessening the strokes but knowing you’re getting quality pulls.

“For a lifeguard, that’s getting to a patient that little bit quicker, which could be life or death.

“It saves lives, or in a race, it’s just that little bit quicker and more efficient.”

Mr Fergusson is currently in the research stage of his project and intends to test other products on the market to see how strong they are and how well they travel through water, before moving ahead.

He hopes to be able to use computer aided design (CAD) to maximise a board’s strength and speed.

He said he was looking forward to using the connections he would gain through the Transformer program to progress his business.

“The main manufacturers are here so I can learn off them,” he said.

“The market is here. If you make a good product they’ll respond and they’ll buy it.”

Bond University awards two Transformer scholarships annually, halving the recipient’s tuition costs, and providing entry to the university’s free Transformer entrepreneurship program.

Mr Fergusson has joined the Gold Coast’s Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club so he can continue competing while in Australia, and already has his sights set on the New Zealand and Australian national championships later this year.

“I was pretty stoked (to get the scholarship,” he said.

“It opened up the opportunity to come to Australia for me, which was awesome, it’s the home of surf here, so you’ve got to be here if you want to do well.

“The Bond gym’s a big upgrade from what I’m used to in New Zealand, the weather’s been pretty good mostly, but the Gold Coast lifestyle is really nice, the pool is amazing for me doing surf lifesaving, the Arch is cool, the lake is nice.”


For more information, please contact: 
Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433