Between the flags: Penny-pinching a challenge for surf clubs

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club volunteer Maddie Scown (left) collecting a donation from Emma Duncan
and Anne Duncan. Photo / George Novak

By: Jean Bell
Multimedia journalist
Bay of Plenty Times

This summer NZME is helping Surf Life Saving to help save lives. The charity relies on the goodwill of thousands of volunteers, fundraising, grants and sponsorship to keep our beaches patrolled. Here's your chance to help raise money for new equipment and lifeguard training.

The end of a long hot Sunday afternoon sees Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club volunteers head out on one of their most important missions.

The task is not to dash across hot sand or jump into crashing surf to save a life.

Rather, it is to pound the pavement and door knock houses around the town, asking people to donate money to the charity so it can keep afloat and continue keeping beach-goers safe.

Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club director of lifeguarding, James Lloyd. Photo / George Novak

The group of four youngsters tell the Herald people often turn them away empty-handed.

By a stroke of luck, the charity strikes gold at the first house they visit and Auckland resident Emma Duncan happily gives to the cause.

Duncan and her family are staying at their bach, as they have done for the last 20 years.

She was an ocean swimmer and felt comfortable in the ocean but she worries about those who are not as capable.

"Just yesterday I was out in the surf and saw two young boys struggling. I'd hate to think what could happen if lifeguards weren't there."

She pops a note into the bucket and the squad continue on their mission.

It will take more than knocking on a few doors or the odd sausage sizzle to bring home the bacon for the club, which is something club director of lifeguarding, James Lloyd, knows all too well.

Lloyd, who was also the 2019 New Zealand Life Guard of the Year, works a full-time office job in Auckland, but his weekends and holidays are spent down in the beach town.

Inside the tower at Waihī Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. Photo / George Novak

He said the penny-pinch was a constant challenge for the club and it needed money to buy costly new equipment or pay for training to ensure it could keep people safe.

"A lot of time is spent on chasing money rather than training or other important tasks", he said. "Every club struggles".

Most volunteers lived out of town so they gave not only their time but also their money, spending money to pay for fuel and food just to get to the unpaid job.

James Lloyd. Photo / George Novak

Once they were there, they also needed to pay for their own uniforms.

Lloyd said the charity did have valued sponsors but donations from the public were vital to keeping the service afloat.

"We're a 365 days a year, 24/7 hour service ... I couldn't tell you the number of callouts we've got at 3am on days like Christmas."


This article was originally published in the Bay of Plenty Times/NZ Herald on January 1, 2020.