Crews Embrace ILS IRB Racing

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Enthusiastic crews finally got to rip in at an IRB development camp with a twist last weekend at Orewa.  15 crews from around the country spent Friday and Saturday learning the differences between NZ and ILS style racing, module by module, gradually piecing the skills together. 

Crews capped off their weekend with New Zealand’s inaugural ILS style IRB competition ‘ILS Race Fest’.  By the time racing was over on Sunday, crews were visibly exhausted but with smiles, new skills and sense of accomplishment.

Crews had the relative luxury of not having to haul their gear across the country for the camp or to compete. Sunset Beach SLSC kindly provided pooled gear for athletes to use, in line with how ILS style IRB events usually work. A small gear and fuel contribution from camp crews and competitors ensured Sunset would be covered for gear damages.  Shane Edwards from Sunset Beach SLSC said that “it’s important for crews to be able to learn on gear specific to ILS style of racing, the boats go a lot faster and feel more responsive than New Zealand boats”.


Crews as young as 17 were coached by the 2018 reigning World Champions Shane and Mark Edwards, and Taylor Shrimpton.  High performance squad additions Abigail Chapman, Oliver Shivnan and Connor Mitchell, who were on track for their first Lifesaving World Championships (LWC)  in 2020, also helped with coaching.  The LWC National Teams IRB competition was postponed to 2022 and later at cancelled after it was removed due to Covid.

The coaches seemed to get as much out of the camp as the athletes with Taylor finding it “really motivating to see crews super keen and asking so many questions. It actually made me stop and think about how I do what I do in order to then explain it to the crews”.

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High Performance IRB Coach Lead Jaron Mumby said he was “…very excited the camp and racing was finally taking place after a long time of advocating for this style of racing and development in New Zealand.

“It is really important that there is a pathway for crews to be able to aspire and prepare toward a World Championships.

“For many athletes, whether or not they make a New Zealand team, having a goal like this is what draws them into the sport and keeps them going”.

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A recent SLSNZ survey confirms what most in sport already know, that being involved in competitive surf sport leads to greater retention of members and therefore retention and upskilling of lifeguards. Not surprisingly, the higher the level of sport an athlete is involved, the greater the retention rate.

Many IRB members feel strongly about maintaining the traditional New Zealand racing style. Although there have been some small rule changes which are similar to ILS, Jaron hopes “…to see more New Zealand crews curious and willing to give ILS style racing a go so that a performance pathway becomes viable rather than the exception.”. 

ILS Race Fest results here.

For more information about ILS style IRB racing, check out a short promo video below and the ILS/NZ rule differences here.