20 year milestone reached at TSB Nationals 2020
For Surf Lifeguards the TSB Nationals 2020 is the pinnacle Surf Lifesaving sports event of the season.
credit - Jamie Nilsson
This year it will also be a milestone event for Richie Whinham.
Richie took part in his first TSB Nationals competition 20 years ago. And he’s been to every one since.
“It’s a cool achievement. There are people that have gone to heaps of TSB Nationals, but it’s cool to have been to 20 in a row.”
The 34-year-old is competing in the TSB Nationals Surf Life Saving Championships at Midway Beach, Gisborne from Thursday to Sunday (March 12 to 15).
Richie is a member of the Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards and says being part of the Surf Life Saving movement is more than patrolling the beaches to keep people safe during summer.
It’s also about competing in surf sports events.
“The TSB Nationals in particular is the main gathering of our lifeguards. It’s where the people who do the hard work go to have some fun and be rewarded for their volunteering.
“It’s a celebration of our Surf Lifesaving culture and people. It’s competitive and there are amazing athletes that excel and there are people that aren’t athletically inclined enjoying themselves as well.”
He says it caters for everyone – from swimmers and beach sprinters to boaties.
“It brings everyone together.”
Richie says his greatest achievement at a Nationals was winning the U21 short course surf boat gold medal.
Sport is an important part of being a Surf Lifeguard, he says.
“It’s a major recruitment and retention tool in terms of giving people something to come into the organisation for, and keeping them involved.
“It keeps you fit and healthy, and when you’re out in the water getting fitter and more capable it means you’re more capable to get out there and save people.”
Richie says without the sport element, Surf Life Saving wouldn’t have the number, or quality, of Surf Lifeguards that it does have.
“If they didn’t have the sport that they are so passionate about, they wouldn’t be patrolling the beaches on the weekends.”
Richie followed his sisters into Surf Lifesaving – as a five-year-old he hung out at Paekakariki Beach while they took part in Nippers.
As soon as he was old enough, he joined too, and became a Surf Lifeguard at the age of 14. He’s been with the club ever since.
“Being a Surf Lifeguard gives you a sense of helping your community – being on my local beach, in my local town.
“I’m looking after the people that are nearest and dearest, and that means a lot to me.”
Richie will be competing in the boat arena at the TSB Nationals 2020 sweeping an U19 Male crew and rowing in an Open Male crew.