Lifesaving World Championships

Lifesaving World Championships

The ILS World Life Saving Championships are the world championships for lifesaving sport events. They are sanctioned by the International Life Saving Federation (ILS), conducted every 2 years, and commonly marketed and known as the ‘Rescue’ series, for example – Rescue 2008.

The World Life Saving Championships incorporate - National Teams World Championships, Interclub Teams World Championships, Masters World Championships, Surfboats World Championships and IRB World Championships. Additional championships can include additional events such as March Past, Long distance Race. The World Championships typically attract between 3,000 and 5,000 competitors and officials, and are conducted over a period of 12 to 14 days.

Prior to the amalgamation of WLS and FIS in 1993 to create ILS, both WLS and FIS conducted World Championship events in Life Saving Sports. Founded in 1971 WLS conducted ocean and beach based world championships for National Teams in South Africa in 1974 and Interclub World Championships in 1981 and 1983. The 1988, 1990, and 1992 Rescue series of World Championship events were also organised by WLS. Rescue 88, the 1988 World Championships were the first international championships to conduct both ocean and pool events.

In 1956 prior to the advent of WLS, as part of the 1956 Olympic Games celebrations Surf Life Saving Australia (a founding member of WLS) hosted an International Lifesaving Championships at Torquay Beach in which teams from several countries competed against each other. It could be argued that this was the first World Lifesaving Championships for ocean and beach events.

Founded in 1910, member nations of FIS agreed to conduct World Championships in pool life saving events. The first such championships were conducted in Paris, France in 1955 and were held sporadically over the next 40 years until the final FIS Championships in 1995. These contests were strictly for national representative teams only. Since 1996, World Life Saving Championships have been conducted solely by ILS every two years.



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The Junior Black Fins can now call themselves World Champions in the youth category after they fought back from an overnight points deficit on Saturday, to finish on top at the end of the final day.  This was a historic result for the Under-19 team, who have never won the world title with the category being previously dominated by Australia. 

Junior Black Fins Coach, Matt Cairns, said they are “so proud” of the Junior Black Fins who fought “incredibly hard” to get the title for the very first time.  “It was an effort by the whole team and management to dig deep for the silver fern to get this result. It had never been done before but we knew we had the best team for the job.”  “The team showed amazing resilience when things got tough and kept fighting by putting out massive performances and a lot of personal bests after four days of extremely tough racing,” he added.

The team broke another three New Zealand pool records today, and took home an impressive nine medals, including five golds, on the last day of competition alone.  Lochlainn O'Connor (Mount Maunganui) was a standout on the final day, by breaking two records himself, and bringing home three of the Junior Black Fins’ gold medals. One of those was a team effort with the 4x25m Manikin Relay, which he won alongside team-mates Zac Reid, Oscar Williams and Declan Dempster.

The Black Fins also secured the trophy for top team in the pool. While the points were a tie with Australia, the Kiwi team won the pool trophy after they had secured more gold medals in the pool than their Australian counterparts.  They also got a podium in the Simulated Emergency Response Competition (SERC) by taking third, behind France and Norway.  Both teams agree that the support from New Zealand, both here in Adelaide and back home, that made a difference to the athletes and for that, they’re grateful. 


New Zealand wins another World Championship title at Lifesaving World Championships. The New Zealand Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) team have been crowned the first ever World IRB Champions at the Lifesaving World Championships (LWC) in Australia, after edging out their closest rivals by 22 points.

It's hard to describe a week where 2 teams from Sunset Beach represented NZ at the LWC Adelaide 2018 and became IRB World Champions with 4 x world titles to their names, as well as having our club take out 3rd overall in the World Inter-Club Championship with an additional 3 x World Inter-Club titles. Just an incredible result!

It was a huge team effort and a big thank you must go to all the team members, managers, supporters and our Port Waikato community who helped us make history. We thank everyone for their good wishes and support. Also a big thank you to Glenelg Surf Life Saving Club and the organisers from Surf Life Saving SA and the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) for the opportunity to compete at this wonderful competition.


The team of 12, led by St Clair's Andrew McMillan, has created history once again as they're now the first Kiwi surf lifesaving team to win three consecutive world championship titles.  The Black Fins first prised the national team's title at the biannual Lifesaving World Championships from Australia in 2012 and once again in France in 2014.

With five days of competition split across the pool and the beach, the Lifesaving World Championships is the largest international lifesaving sport competition in the world. All the events are based around rescue capability and are specific to saving people's lives. Traditionally stronger in the beach events, it's also the first time the Kiwis, or any team, have won the title of top team in the pool events and top team in the beach events as well as the overall world title.

The Black Fins finished with 881 points ahead of Australia on 792 points with France in third on 599 points to hold on to the Alan B. Whelpton, AO Trophy. The team started off their final day of competition on a high with Mount Maunganui's Olivia Eaton taking silver in the women's Beach Flags to add to her gold in the women's beach sprints from the previous day.  Mairangi Bay's Danielle McKenzie added another silver in the women's Ski Race with Omanu's Max Beattie then taking his first of three golds for the day in the men's Board Race. The other individual gold came in the men's Ironman and then with team mates Paul Cracroft-Wilson, Cory Taylor and Chris Dawson in the Oceanman Relay.

Captain Andy McMillan says he's ecstatic. "We've been dreaming of this day and we've taken it one step at a time. We thought about taking over back in 2012 and we've had this core belief of believing that we've got the ability to do it and we've never stopped believing and the last three world championships has shown it. We're stoked that we've been able to come up with the victory in the last three, he says.

"We've been planning for this for a long time so to achieve what we went after is special and to do with a heap of Kiwi supporters on the beach is even better."  Vice-captain Steven Kent says it's been a progression, building towards this moment to win the pool and the beach and the overall title at the same time. "It's something special that myself and the rest of the team will remember forever, he says.

"Winning the pool officially was a big step up from here we've been before and to back that up with the beach is something special that no one has ever done so to achieve both in the same Worlds, plus win the overall title, is phenomenal."  Coach Jason Pocock says it has been an absolutely amazing day. "The word for the day was being proud of the last day which meant being better than we were the previous days.

The team took this challenge on and exceeded maybe even their own expectations. We had a tough start after Croffy (Paul Cracroft-Wilson) had a mishap in the flags but the team took on the responsibility to get behind him. Obviously Max's last day was ridiculously good but the whole team contributed to his and the team's success. It is great to be part of history and we look forward to continuing the Black Fin legacy in the future," he says.

Team manager Mark Weatherall says he too is incredibly proud of the team. "Massive heart and belief got us across the line. I am very proud of the management team involved; they have worked so hard behind the scenes for this win. Special thanks to Scott Bartlett (head coach in 2012 and 2014) whose work has helped us achieved today's fantastic result. The Black Fins are a special team, who have achieved something very, very special," he says.


It took 14 years but in 2012, the Black Fins finally broke the Aussie stronghold on the World Championship title and wrestled the cup off Australia. In 2014, the determination was there to back up the win and to create New Zealand surf lifesaving history!

We knew it would be very challenging; not only did we have to be concerned about a wounded Aussie team, but we had the likes of France chomping at the bit to get on the podium. But the Black Fins were determined to give it their all to create history. The campaign was slightly different to that of 2012 in that we didn't have much resource and, of course, the Worlds were in France, rather than Australia.

The team's belief was also backed up by others outside the team, including two very special Kiwis - All Blacks coach Steve Hanson and Victoria Cross soldier Willy Apiata. These two men not only added to what the team had developed, but they reinforced the values of the team and what they meant to them; this was hugely powerful and we often referred back to these two men in our team talks.  Our aim was to leave the pool in front and look to build on that on the beach, as we did in 2012. There were many successes in the pool, but a few challenges in the SERC events meant we finished second behind France.

We had done our homework with a site visit 12 months before so the beach athletes were more than ready for flat, hard and a sometimes potholed beach at Le Grande Motte. In the early stages of Day One at the beach, the Australian team began to crawl their way back into the event with a handful of good wins.

The Black Fins worked very hard throughout that day and something that will always stick in my mind is Steve Kent's performance in the Tube Rescue with Captain Andy McMillan. As Steve ran in to make his way to the buoys, he dislocated his knee. This was unknown to us until post- race! We all thought he had pulled his hamstring. It was a massive effort and the lift that gave the team was out of this world. The second key moment was when Chanel Hickman knocked her arch rival Melissa Howard out of the Beach Flags. In doing so, Melissa broke her collar bone. The composure Chanel showed alongside her team mate Paul Cracoft-Wilson (Melissa's partner) was outstanding; the event was stopped for close to 40 minutes before Chanel went on to win the title.

The heart showed by the 2014 Black Fins was outstanding and got them across the line to take the win comfortably while creating New Zealand history. Bring on Rescue 2016! (Mark Weatherall, Team Manager)


Our Kiwi team was on top of the world having taken the title of Rescue 2012 World Champs for the first time in 14 years.

Rescue 2012 was held in Adelaide, South Australia, from November 7-18 with events held across three venues including Glenelg and Christie's beaches and the state-of-the-art South Australian State Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

New Zealand sent two teams to compete - the open NZ Team (which included Olympians Steve Kent, Steven Ferguson, Andrew McMillan and Natasha Hind) and the Under 20's who competed in the inaugural Under 20 World Championships, held at Rescue 2012. The athletes were meticulously prepared and from the start went in fighting, ready to take the title from the Australians on their home territory.

The Black Fins finished with 844 points to Australia's 765. Key successes came with five golds from the women in the pool including three golds from Samantha Lee on the first day, breaking three world records in the 100 metre rescue medley and the 4 x 50 metre obstacle relay.

Natasha Hind won two gold medals, erasing two seconds off the world record in the 200 metre super lifesaver and shattering the New Zealand record by almost 10 seconds. She also claimed gold in the 50 metre manikin carry, breaking the national record in the process.

Both the male (Kevin Morrison and Max Beattie) and female (Nikki Cox and Devon Halligan) board rescue teams won with Halligan also winning the women's ski race. Chanel Hickman added to the lustre with a beach flags win. The New Zealand women's' taplin team finished in style, winning the last event of the championships. New Zealand captain Andy McMillan couldn't suppress his jubilation, having battled a knee injury throughout the build-up and having swum himself delirious in the pool.

"The Australians are like big brothers to us and a lot of the team train at Aussie clubs alongside these superstars", he says. After the event NZ team captain Andy McMillan commented "Beating them on their home beach is one thing but we absolutely smashed them and that is an incredible feeling. We came here with a mission and we achieved it and the whole team is jumping out of their skins. This feeling will stay with us for the rest of our lives." - Andy McMillan, Team Captain


This international event was hosted by Muriwai in West Auckland and the Waitakere City Aquatic Centre for sea and pool events, though sea conditions saw some events transferred to Long Bay on Auckland's North Shore.  Any world championships require significant dedication and stamina by the organising team and others involved and this event was no exception.

Rescue 98 encompassed three competitions, the national team's events, master's events, and interclub teams events. The National Teams event was won convincingly by New Zealand for the first time following superb efforts in the pool and winning or placing in enough beach events to secure the world crown. The defending champions Surf Lifesaving Australia and Surf Life Saving South Africa were second and third respectively.

Outstanding performances by the New Zealand team including Trent Bray and Jackie Read in the pool (two golds), Cory Hutchings on the paddle board and IronMan (two golds) and Callum Taylor in the beach sprints and flags (two golds) gave New Zealand the edge over the traditional rivals. Medalists also included Anna Ballara (gold) with Anna Robson, Paul Bethell, Duane Dalton and Kelly Piper all contributing to the gold, silver and bronze tally. This team was welded together by a dedicated management and coaching team.

New Plymouth Old Boys starred in the World Interclub Championships going neck to neck with Durban Surf (South Africa) for top honours. Opunake (Taranaki) won the world IRB single and team rescue events with Lyall Bay (Wellington) a creditable second in the rescue race. The World Masters Championships witnessed a good turnout of Lifeguards aged 30 to 65 years (plus). New Zealand Masters competed with credit and many featured in the medal stakes. There is always an extra sense of fun and friendship connected with any Masters championships and Rescue 98 was no different.

The next Life Saving World Championships will be held in Sydney in April 2000. After this the Championships will be held every four years.