Boyd Harris’s enduring tenacity sees him win the NZ Lottery Grants Board Lifeguard of the Year Award

Friday, 30 September 2022

‘In it for life’ could not be a more accurate depiction of Boyd Harris’s commitment to the Pukehina Surf Rescue Lifeguard Service (SR). Boyd’s 40 plus years of helping others and driving the club to new heights have earned him the NZ Lottery Grants Board Lifeguard of the Year Award, receiving the prestigious award at the Surf Lifesaving New Zealand (SLSNZ) 2022 National Awards of Excellence.

Boyd became interested in surf lifesaving and became a lifeguard ‘over the estuary’ at Maketu when he was a teenager but even before becoming qualified, Boyd showed a knack for getting out there and helping - standing at the shoreline warning young kids off the beach after noticing dangerous surf conditions when he was just 13.

That initiative has not tired, and the local Bay of Plenty legend has driven change throughout all levels of the club, from convincing 60 of his mates to become qualified lifeguards in the early years to encouraging life members to come back to beach patrolling more recently.

“That was pretty cool,” says Boyd.

“We paired the older ones who turned up on the flags with a younger one. The younger ones got to learn a lot from their experience and the older ones were reinvigorated to do more. We went from having just 38 lifeguards to pushing 60 lifeguards in total and increased from 60 to 130 junior surf kids. It was very cool,” says Boyd.

Boyd has always put an emphasis on creating pathways to experiences, education and careers, including a unique collaboration with mental health programme Surfing for Farmers.

“We've bought our own surfboards and wetsuits and all our club members help with coaching plus a couple of surfers from the community got involved so it's a real cool thing.”

“And out of that formed the Pukehina Board Riders Club and we've got 60 kids and 20 adults that come down and use all our gear, and it's just cool to be able to offer that resource and create healthy pathways for the community,” explains Boyd.

Boyd is also part of a multi-million-dollar fund-raising effort to build a new surf club which is testament to Pukehina SR’s growth. The club used to carry out 30-40 rescues a year, now it is only two per year with more guards, patrol hours and increased preventative lifeguarding. Pukehina SR also helps smaller beaches and has the special skills needed for event life guarding. But at the heart of it all is simply Boyd’s passion for helping people while also having a ‘bloody great time’.

I've been involved with a lot of other sports and organisations. Have coached or instructed over 30,000 kids and 8,000 adults in my lifetime, but surf lifesaving is the one that I've really stuck with. If I can take others along for the ride with me, I can teach one instructor and they go and instruct 20 kids or adults and that's awesome,” says Boyd.

“I really enjoy helping young people see the leadership potential there is in surf lifesaving and it’s just good fun.”