SLSNZ announced this month’s rescue


bp New Zealand and SLSNZ announced this month’s bp Rescue of the Month Awards!


1st Place: Waihi Beach LS – for a daring rock rescue

2nd place: Sumner SLSC – for a mass rescue of 27 swimmers in 10 minutes

3rd place: Omaha – for a double rescue of a mother and son


These three outstanding rescues were conducted by Surf Lifeguards in during the month of December, 2020. Winners are selected by the National Lifesaving Committee.



Daring Rock Rescue Wins Waihi Beach LS 1st Place


In the early hours of Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service’s Christmas Day patrol at Bowentown, Patrol captain Ella Higgins received a call regarding a patient with a suspected hip fracture “on the rocks” somewhere nearby.


The precise location was unknown, so Higgins and fellow Surf Lifeguards Michiel Cumming and Gabriella de Latour drove the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to scan the rocks and nearby Anzac Bay to no avail. As they were heading back to base, they met with police who provided Cave Bay as the location. Travel by foot was deemed ineffective and time-consuming, so Cumming and Higgins launched the inflatable rescue boat (IRB) and headed to the remote location while de Latour maintained the Bowentown patrol base.


Cumming and Higgins found the patient’s distressed son frantically waving his arms 400 meters along the rocks towards the point from Cave Bay. On arrival, it was deemed unsafe to leave the IRB due to surf conditions, so Cumming swam from the IRB to the patient to provide immediate assistance. He then gave a full handover to the paramedics when they arrived, while Higgins transported the rescue team and equipment to the location via IRB.


The patient’s condition was deteriorating, however, so members of the public held the boat while Higgins assisted Cumming at the scene. As the rescue helicopter arrived, two Flight Medics were winched down 50 meters from the patient’s location. A plan was made to administer the patient pain relief and transport him to a location where he could be winched out. The team had to be extremely careful and cautious while transferring him from his original position, lying on his stomach on a rock, to a flat position on his back. Cumming and Higgins assisted in a textbook body-roll onto the spinal board with the help of the Fire Rescue team and the paramedic.


The team then decided to move the patient to a more appropriate winch site 50 meters from the initial incident. Cumming and Higgins assisted in the carry, dodging submerged and visible rocks, as well as the incoming tide. The patient was then lifted onto a rock where he was secured by the Flight Medics and winched out. Cumming, along with fire and rescue personnel, surrounded the rock in case the patient was blown into the water with the downward wind pressure from the helicopter. Higgins secured the IRB from the members of the public and drove to a safer location away from the helicopter. The patient was airlifted at 12.35 pm.


This was a fantastic effort involving all emergency services working cohesively together. bp NZ Managing Director, Matt Elliott says bp is “incredibly proud” to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for more than 50 years.


“bp is immensely proud to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand since 1968. The skills and bravery of Surf Lifeguards continue to impress our bp team and this rescue is another example of these amazing efforts.”



2nd Place Prize for Sumner SLSC Following Epic Mass Rescue


Sumner SLSC Surf Lifeguards knew they were in for a busy day on December 19, 2020. Christchurch’s temperatures were predicted to hit a whopping 30 degrees, heavy surf crashed along the beach, and the tide was set to be outgoing for most of the day.


The beach had become increasingly dangerous in the months leading up to mid-December, with large rips, holes, currents and surf creating a problems for keen beachgoers even on quieter days.  


With this in mind, Surf Lifeguards were well prepared. No less than 26 members were on site, either on patrol or taking part in a club training day. Patrol Captain Harry Taylor and Vice-Patrol Captain William Simmons established a rotational system for everyone and briefed them on the day ahead.

Due to the predicted conditions, Surf Lifeguards were out in the water from the start forming an area around the swimmers keeping them safe throughout the day.


This turned out to be a lifesaving decision of epic proportions.


At 3pm, a large flash rip opened up to the right of the flags. Six swimmers, who seconds before had been happily on their feet, were swept into the rip, immediately getting into trouble. Surf Lifeguard Per Tonascia, who was already in the water on a board, immediately responded and secured all six of the swimmers within seconds of them being pulled out. William Simmons and Charlotte Doogue, who had tubes, also assisted while the IRB (driven by Kate Suter and Keke Mote), was launched to retrieve the swimmers and returned them to shore. 


However, by the time the first six swimmers were back on shore, a further 21 members of public had been sucked out by the rip. Every single one of the 21 members was secured and kept safe by over 10 lifeguards within seconds.


Eight more people hung on to Tonascia’s board. Angus Ashcroft secured a further five on a board, while Liv Austin, Bradon Foster and Harry Taylor secured a further two each in tubes. Charlotte Doogue and Nellie Manning secured one each in a rescue tube and swam them back to shore, where Wayne and Jack Simmons swam out from the flags to assist in the rescue, creating a two-person tow.


Simmons swam between each group left out in the water, assessing conditions/highest risk groups, and coordinating with the IRB crew as to which members of public should be picked up first. Suter and Mote pulled up to six people into the IRB at a time, all while holding position in large surf and coordinating around the cave rocks, other people, lifeguards, tubes and boards. A second IRB was also launched by Jess Larson and Ben Cummins to assist in returning people to shore, as well as to keep an eye on the lifeguards in the water.


Within 10 minutes, all 27 members of public had been returned to shore either by IRB, tube or board, none with any serious conditions, but all very happy and grateful to be on the shore. The flash rip had gone and everything settled back to normal. A debrief was then run with the whole team at the end of the day.


A great deal of teamwork was needed to coordinate the mammoth response. Due to the proactive work of the Surf Lifeguards, there was not a single moment where a member of public in trouble was left by themselves without a lifeguard’s assistance. This was one of the most seamless, well-coordinated mass rescues Sumner Beach has seen in living memory.


bp NZ Managing Director, Matt Elliott says bp is “incredibly proud” to have partnered with Surf Life Saving New Zealand since 1968.


“bp has been in partnership with Surf Life Saving New Zealand for 53 years and is so proud to support the organisation’s efforts in keeping us all safer at our beaches. This rescue is a great illustration of the incredible difference Surf Lifeguards make on our beaches across the country.”


As the second-place winner of bp Rescue of the Month, Sumner SLSC will be recognised with $300-worth of bp gift vouchers.





RELAX & float to conserve your energy. 


RAISE your hand to signal for help.


RIDE the rip until it stops & you can swim back to shore or help arrives.