Winners of Surf Life Saving New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Awards of Excellence Announced

Monday, 19 June 2023

The winners of Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) Hawke’s Bay Awards of Excellence have been announced, many of whom were recognised for their exceptional efforts during and after Cyclone Gabrielle, which devastated the region earlier this year.


Jessica Bennett, from Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC), was honoured with the Volunteer of the Year Award.  Bennett has been managing the Hawke’s Bay Search and Rescue callout squad for years but her work around Cyclone Gabrielle was outstanding.  She proactively planned for the event, weeks in advance, leading the team with authority and respect.


When Cyclone Gabrielle did eventually hit, Bennett left her young family to spend weeks at the centre of the major rescue response in Hawke’s Bay.  The Search and Rescue team, consisting of over 30 members and utilising 15 inflatable rescue boats (IRBs), conducted extensive search and rescue operations under her coordination.  She led this team into uncharted territories but despite being tested in various ways, Bennett remained approachable and compassionate. 


Helen Jackson, Ocean Beach Kiwi SLSC Director of Sport, said, “Jess deserves more than just the Volunteer of the Year award; she deserves New Zealander of the Year award at a national level. From all of us to you, Jess, we want to thank you for giving tirelessly, for all that you have done, and all that you do.”


Michael Peterson, a dedicated member of the Waimārama SLSC, won the Lifeguard of the Year award.  Peterson plays a vital role in the SLSC as a patrol captain, inflatable rescue driver, inflatable rescue boat examiner, power craft director, and event guard.  He is also in the process of being one of the few rescue water craft (RWC) drivers in Hawke’s Bay.


With his varied skill set and knowledge, Peterson was an essential member of the response team following Cyclone Gabrielle, going out of his way to help those in need.


Cornelius Venter, Waimārama SLSC Surf Lifeguard Director, said “Michael is committed to serving the community and improving the local club and regional guarding performance.  He is a pillar of leadership when it comes to the IRB programmes and in general, he encourages young lifeguards to work towards achieving more awards and success within the service through hard work.”


Jonty Laver, representing Waimārama SLSC, was honoured with the Sportsperson of the Year award.  He is currently part of the national kayak development squad and has relocated to Hamilton to train with the national team.


His talent and dedication are evident in his achievements, securing a bronze medal in the Open Ski race at the TSB New Zealand Surf Lifesaving Championships, and picking up three gold medals at the Hawke’s Bay Championships in the Open Board, Ironperson and Ski competitions.


Beyond his athletic abilities, Laver is highly respected by his teammates as a coach and mentor.  He contributes behind the scenes, assisting with tasks such as towing trailers, loading gear, and organising team merchandise.


Michael Bassett-Foss, Waimārama SLSC Director of Sport, said “The thing I’m most inspired by, is his enthusiasm to help out the younger seniors. Older male athletes are a scary proposition for young seniors. Jonty actively encourages them and gives them tips.”


The Hawke’s Bay Awards of Excellence brought together members from Westshore, Waimārama, Ocean Beach Kiwi, and Pacific.


Charlie Crodwell, Central Region Manager, said, “This season was particularly challenging for our teams in Hawke’s Bay as they were an integral part of the emergency response following Cyclone Gabrielle.  I am incredibly proud of the way they carried themselves, demonstrating unwavering dedication to their community.  They also overcame a number of obstacles to be able to compete in local and national sporting competitions, working together and giving it their all.”


The SLSNZ National Awards of Excellence will take place on 23 September at Te Papa in Wellington.


NOTE:  This media release is subject to a strict embargo until 19 June, 2023.  The Awards will be held on the night of 18 June, 2023.  No part of this release should be published, distributed, or shared in any form prior to the specified embargo date.


For More Information Please Contact:

Charlie Cordwell – SLSNZ Central Region Manager

027 557 1015


Full List of Winners:


Lifeguarding Awards and Trophies:


Top 3 Patrollers – OBK  

Jared Fritchley, Maggie Drain, Helen Jackson


Top 3 Patrollers – WMR 

Cornelius Venter, Michael Peterson, Madison Holmes and Wyatt Holmes


Top 3 Patrollers – PAC  

Leah Cooper, Amelie Anstasopoulos, Ashlinn Stevenson


Top 3 Patrollers – WSS 

Aidan Callaghan, Benz Booth, Temepara Reihana and Aidan Charman


Top Patrol Captain – OBK 

Jacob Crawley


Top Patrol Captain – WMR 

Bianca Sanko


Top Patrol Captain – WSS 

Aidan Charman


Top Patrol Captain – PAC 

Leah Cooper


Outstanding Contribution to Power Craft 

Rhys Harman


Most IRB Awards 



Bart Dennehy Trophy – Most Surf Awards and Surf Instructors Awards 



Coach of the Year

Lenny Kay


Surf Official of the Year 

Trina Wills


Life Member Cup (Sportsperson of the Year)  

Jonty Laver


Dickson Cup Sports Team of the Year 

OBK Female Canoe Team


Innovation of the Year

Waimārama IRB Racking System


Volunteer of the Year - Durrand Cup 

Jessica Bennett


Instructor of the Year 

Lexxie Cunningham


Lifeguard of the Year - Tremains Shield 

Michael Peterson


Masters Sportsperson of the Year 

Rebecca Wright


Masters Sports Team of the Year 

OBK Masters Team


Club of the Year 




Sport Trophies - Overall/General:


Most Outstanding Beach Athlete – Male  

Logan Magerison


Most Outstanding Beach Athlete – Female  

Lucy Angland


Legend Ironwoman - All Ages 

Bella Bassett-Foss - Waimārama


Legend Ironman - All Ages 

Alex Finlayson – Waimārama


Carroll Cup - Open Ironman Aggregate (Male) 

Jonty Laver – Waimārama


Open Ironwoman Aggregate (Female) 

Bella Bassett-Foss  - Waimārama


Humes Cup - Most Improved Athlete 

Tia List – Waimārama


Ice Breaker Cup Mens  

Calum Sutherland – Waimārama


Ice Breaker Cup Womens 

Isabella Bassett-Foss - Waimārama


Ice Breaker Cup Teams 

Alfie Wilson, Bertie Bassett-Foss, Jack Stone – Waimārama



U11 Female 1st - Emma Mill

U11 Female 2nd - Ella Fritchley

U11 Female 3rd - Clara Barber and Olivia Mahoney

U11 Male 1st - Hamish McLaren

U11 Male 2nd – Kadin Bewick

U11 Male 3rd - Cameron Wagstaff



U12 Female 1st - Mia Scott

U12 Female 2nd - Tamarah Messervy

U12 Female 3rd - Aliana Watson

U12 Male 1st - Tamati Geary

U12 Male 2nd - Knox Allen

U12 Male 3rd - Thomas Birkett



U13 Female 1st - Charlotte McLaren

U13 Female 2nd - Maggie Hammond

U13 Female 3rd - Ellen Wagstaff

U13 Male 1st - Thomas Mill

U13 Male 2nd - Oliver Fritchley

U13 Male 3rd - Hunter Scott and Finn Clarke



U14 Angus Russell - Top Jnr Surf Female - Sophie Tasker

U14 Female 2nd - Lily Hammond

U14 Remale 3rd  - Rosa Angland and Lucy Kinnear

U14 Andresen Memorial - Top Jnr Surf Male - Max MacInnes

U14 Male 2nd - Elliot Wickham

U14 Male 3rd - Tom Holder and Eliot Webber


Maude Russell Cup, Top Jnr Surf Club



Metropolitan Life, Outstanding Sportsmanship Junior Surf

Lucy Kinnear – Waimārama


Outstanding Contribution to Junior Surf   

Richard Holder - Waimārama



Points Trophies from Hawke’s Bay Champs:


Pania Cup - Open Women’s Aggregate Points at HB Champs



Challenge Shield - Open Men’s Aggregate Points at HB Champs 



Allan Christie Trophie - Most Points Overall at HB Champs 



Canterbury Trophy 



Welsh Ladies Trophy (OW Ski Race) 

Bella Bassett-Foss - Waimārama


Atherfold Cup (OM Surf Race)

Alex Finlayson – Waimārama