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What is Surf Life Saving?

What is Surf Life Saving?

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. Surf Lifeguards keep the public safe at the beach by marking and patrolling the safest swimming area between two red and yellow flags and spend the day preventing water emergencies by educating the public on the dangers that are present at any given beach.

Surf Lifeguards are trained to handle dangerous surf conditions and are extremely competent at swimming and operating inflatable rescue boats to enable them to save lives in the surf.

Some Surf Lifeguards provide their local beach with an after-hours emergency response capability. These off-duty Surf Lifeguards respond from their homes to emergencies at the beach and in the water and often work in conjunction with the Police, Coastguard and the Rescue Helicopter Services.

When do we operate?

Volunteer patrols are situated at 19 locations across the Northern Region. These patrols operate on weekends and public holidays and most locations run from labour weekend to around Easter. During the peak summer, season Surf Life Saving in the Northern Region employs lifeguards to patrol our Northern Region locations from Monday to Friday.

Lifeguard training and equipment

Surf Lifeguards have the capability to perform extraordinary rescues. They are physically fit and regularly up-skill to perform their role.

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 undertaken by securing and then swimming the patient to shore using swim fins. This method of rescue is common and 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
Another rescue technique involves two lifeguards and a 3.8m inflatable rescue boat (IRB). These craft are powered by a modified 30 horsepower outboard engine and the fuel cell is a flexible bladder of 20 litres capacity.

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 operated 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.

Our Training
Surf lifeguards are extensively trained in:

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

SurfCom (Surf Life Saving Communications Network)

Surf Life Saving in the Northern Region owns a large radio network that connects all Surf Clubs to a communications centre call SurfCom. SurfCom is based at the Marine Rescue Centre in Auckland alongside Coastguard and the Maritime Police. A SurfCom operator is based at the Marine Rescue Centre while patrols are running and coordinate the response of emergency services to beaches that have an incident underway.