Giving people a hand 24/7

Friday, 19 June 2020



Volunteer Surf Lifeguard Max Corboy has a pretty simple description for the Emergency Call Out Squad he leads.

“We’re just a team going out to give people a hand outside of patrol hours.”

There are 15 members in the Otago Emergency Call Out Squad and they are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, and work with the police in search and rescue situations.

Being a member of one of Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s 40 Emergency Call Out Squads comes with challenges – sometimes they are called to scenarios that put their own lives at risk.

Other times they are called to situations that have resulted in a fatality, or they may spend days searching for a body missing at sea.

Max, 27, a member of St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club, joined the Otago Emergency Call Out Squad when he was 18.

“It was about pushing myself to do more, and about being able to help by doing more than patrols.”

He took on the coordinator’s role in 2016 at the age of 24.

The squad is made up of volunteers who are paged by the police to an emergency, and respond if they are able.

They do this while holding down full time jobs – some of them are accountants, ambulance officers, builders, fire fighters and police officers.

Max is Downer NZ’s National Communications Coordinator and is responsible for managing the company’s radio procurement and communications networks.

He lives at St Kilda and joined Surf Life Saving New Zealand as a Nipper after his parents wanted him to learn about water safety.

“I appeared at Nippers one day and I haven’t left the surf club since,” Max says.

He qualified as a Surf Lifeguard at the age of 14 and hasn’t looked back.

“It’s about the camaraderie and the friendships. It’s the best 45 bucks subs I’ve ever paid.”

Max has been involved in countless rescues and call outs since becoming a Surf Lifeguard, among them is the search for the body of Vinnie Beecroft.

The 14-year-old boy went missing after jumping off the rocks at Second Beach, Dunedin on January 23. His body was found three days later.

Max led the team of Surf Lifeguards who were out on the water daily to look for the teenager and worked with other emergency services, such as Police, Fire and the National Dive squad, to coordinate the response.

He says not being able to bring Vinnie home sooner was tough, but the determination of everyone involved paid off and it was good to be able to provide his family with closure.

A rather unusual rescue sticks in Max’s head – it was carried out during the Mosgiel floods in 2017.

Because of the floods through the town, 10 Surf Lifeguards from the Otago Emergency Call Out Squad and two inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) were based at the Mosgiel fire station in case they were needed.

“A group of teens had been driving in a 4 wheel drive through the flooded streets. They got stuck in the flood waters and were pinned against a tree.

“It was around midnight and the team were driving the IRBs through the streets. We rescued four people from a car. The water was rising and they were standing on the roof.”

Their efforts won them Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s BP Rescue of the Month for winter 2017, as well as a commendation from Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy for the work they did that night.

Another memorable incident was a mass rescue he was involved in while setting up for the IRB Nationals competition at Warrington Surf Life Saving Club in 2013.

“There was a school group swimming at Purakaunui Beach and 18 girls were caught in a rip. My mate Cam and I rescued half of them. An IRB from Sunset Beach Surf Life Saving Club rescued the other half.”

Nearby surfers were also involved in getting the children back to shore.

“It was one of those rewarding rescues. It was pretty ….. euphoric.”

Off-duty Surf Lifeguards were involved in the rescue of four people from a rip at St Kilda Beach in November 2019. Max Corboy was among them. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH, OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Max, who enjoys hunting, jet skiing, fishing, adventuring and getting away in the wilderness, has earned himself a number of awards over the years, including the Otago President’s Trophy for contribution to surf lifesaving in 2011 and 2019.

In 2014 he was among Surf Lifeguards awarded Rescue of the Year at the Otago/Southland Awards of Excellence. In 2016 he won Otago-Southland’s Innovation of the Year award for designing and implementing a digital radio network for the region, and went on to claim the national DHL Innovation of the Year title at the national Awards of Excellence.

Max is quick to say he doesn’t do what he does for the awards, and the awards often reflect a team of people who have been involved.

On top of working full time and being the coordinator of the Otago Emergency Call Out Squad, Max is also a Patrol Captain at his club, an Event Lifeguard and the co-Equipment Officer for the Otago/Southland region.

Much of Max’s social circles revolve around Surf Life Saving with his best friend Cam Third and his flat mate Connell Duncan also Surf Lifeguards and members of the Emergency Call Out Squad.



For more information please contact:

Rajal Middleton
Head of Commercial and Marketing
Surf Life Saving NZ
027 457 1001