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What is Surf Life Saving?

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Our purpose is the commitment to the prevention of drowning and injury in our aquatic environment, through the provision of lifeguarding, water safety and education services.

Primarily we do this through the provision of patrols and the marking the safest swimming area between two red and yellow flags. We also provide additional services such as Aquatic Risk Consultancy, Public Education and Support Services to meet this purpose.

Our training allows us to operate in the near-shore surf zone during hours of daylight. This is our specialty and we often plug the gap between the land and air based rescue services and marine rescue operators in this unique environment.

Surf Lifeguards are trained to handle most conditions at their beaches and are extremely competent at performing rescues in the surf and in the water around coastal rock formations.

We are patrol based, that is we work in teams to perform rescues safe in the knowledge that we have back-up available. We are not a 24-hour rescue service, although we do have after-hours emergency response capability, in conjunction with our partners at the Police, Coastguard and the Rescue Helicopter Services.

Surf lifesaving differs from nearly every other rescue service by the fact that we proactively patrol rather than react. Most of the work that we do is preventative, warning people of danger.

When do we operate?

Volunteer patrols are mounted at 17 locations across the Northern Region, on all weekends and public holidays between Labour Weekend and April 6th.

Minimum patrol hours of volunteer patrols for October/November/March/April are  11:00am to 4:00pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. For the months of December/January/February the minimum patrol hours of volunteer patrols are 11.00am to 5.00pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

During the peak summer season Surf Life Saving in the Northern Region employs lifeguards to patrol our 17 locations Monday-Friday. This is known as the Regional Lifeguard Service and it is designed to augment volunteer patrols by providing coverage throughout the week. This is typically for 8 weeks from mid December to late January/early February.

Lifeguard training and equipment

Lifeguards have the capability to perform extraordinary rescues. We are physically fit and regularly up-skill to perform the role of the lifeguard. We employ the most advanced and up-to-date technology and systems to support the delivery of our service.

Rescue Tube
Our basic rescue unit is the Surf Lifeguard with a rescue tube and swim-fins. A rescue tube is a flexible red neoprene floatation device used for wrapping around a patient and clipping them in. A short length of rope separates the tube from a webbing strap that is worn by the lifeguard. Rescues are made by securing, then towing the patient to shore using swim fins, surf and rips.

This method of rescue is very common and very effective for shorter range rescues or those that must be performed close to rocks or areas that other rescue methods either cannot access.

Inflatable Rescue Boats - IRB's
Our other major rescue technique involves two lifeguards and a 3.8m inflatable rescue boat (or IRB). These craft are powered by a modified 30 horsepower outboard engine and the fuel cell is a flexible bladder of 20 litres capacity allowing these craft to operate in the surf for approximately one hour at a time.

IRBs are designed to operate inshore on short trips in and around the surf zone during the hours of daylight and are equipped with a rescue tube, knife and two paddles. If capsize occurs, the crew is trained to right the craft and `surf' it in to shore. These craft can perform rescues very close to rock formations and be driven in very large seas.

Rescue Water Craft (Rescue Jet-skis)
These versatile and fast rescue craft enable lifeguards to rapidly access remote and isolated locations and operate in huge surf and challenging weather. They are crewed by a two-person crew and are outfitted with a full range of rescue and first aid equipment.

Rescue Helicopter Services
Lifeguards train and patrol with rescue helicopter services.  A lifeguard crews the Westpac Rescue Helicopter as a "specialist lifeguard". Co-operation between lifeguard patrols and the helicopter services are essential for search and rescue and patient evacuation.

Our Training
Our lifeguards are extensively trained in:

  • surf rescue
  • first aid / emergency care
  • helicopter operations
  • rescue boat operation
  • radio communications

Surf Com (Surf Life Saving Communications Network)

Surf Life Saving in the Northern Region owns one of the largest private radio networks in the southern hemisphere, covering and linking by repeater-network all of our services. We use radios to communicate with each other and with emergency services. At all times that patrols are mounted on the beaches there is a SurfCom Coordinator monitoring transmissions from the Auckland Marine Rescue Centre at Mechanics Bay. This person liaises between Surf Life Saving and other services and provides a `safety net' and advisory service for lifeguards at the beach.