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Surf Lifeguards Rescue Over 880 People During Summer Patrols


Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) rescued 883 people from potential drowning this past summer, according to official patrol statistics. The data, collected from 1 October 2023 to 3 May 2024, came from 74 Surf Life Saving Clubs across 92 patrol locations via the Surf Life Saving Communications Centre

Steve Fisher, SLSNZ CEO, said, “Most of the rescues this season occurred north of Waikato, likely due to higher volumes of people and numerous holiday hotspots. However, beaches were busy around the country, with fine weather and warm temperatures luring thousands to the coastline.”

While the number of rescues decreased compared to last season, preventative actions increased by over 10,000 to 40,506.

Fisher explained, “Increasingly, a lot of what surf lifeguards are doing is preventative work. This is when surf lifeguards take a proactive approach and prevent things from escalating to something more serious. For example, beachgoers may be about to enter an area where a rip is, and surf lifeguards ask them to move to a different area.”

During this patrol season, surf lifeguards dedicated 240,725 hours to patrolling, with a notable rise in requests for extended patrol hours.

Fisher said, “In Auckland, some volunteer patrols kept the red and yellow flags up until 8pm on weekends. While surf lifeguards are there to keep watch over beachgoers, extended patrols do put a strain on our surf lifeguards as they are giving up their own valuable time. It’s something Surf Life Saving Clubs must balance as they look to protect their communities and their members welfare.”

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Surf Life Saving Clubs also reported an increase in first aid incidents, with surf lifeguards performing 206 major and 1,487 minor first aids. The Eastern Region, covering Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, saw a rise in spinal injuries and dislocated limbs.

Fisher said, “Along the North Island’s east coast intense weather systems have disrupted and changed sand banks which can be dangerous, especially for swimmers and bodyboarders. However, surf lifeguards are equipped to deal with situations like this as they’re all trained in first aid and work closely with Hato Hone St John when needed.”

In addition to lifeguarding, SLSNZ provides emergency search and rescue services, coastal safety assessments, public education, member education, and training and development.

Fisher said, “We have an incredible community of surf lifeguards who every summer stand watch over their communities and those out enjoying Aotearoa’s beautiful coastline. They spend the winter months training, educating, and upskilling so that come the busy summer period they are prepared and ready.”

Official Patrol Statistics

Hours on Patrol






Major First Aids


Minor First Aids




Preventative Actions


Rescue: When a person requires immediate help to return to shore (or a place of safety) and, without intervention, would have suffered distress, injury or drowning. They are unable to remove themselves from the situation.

Assist: When a person requires assistance to return to shore but would most likely be able to get themselves out of danger and there is no immediate threat to life.

Minor first aid: Any incident where a patient receives minor medical treatment, such as for a minor cut, bluebottle sting, or minor strain or sprain.

Major first aid: Any incident where a patient needs a higher level of medical intervention, requires further medical treatment, or is handed over to another agency.

Search: Any organised search for a missing person or group, either at sea or on land. This includes body recovery.

Preventative action: When a surf lifeguard identifies a potentially dangerous situation and takes precautionary action to prevent it from developing into a real emergency. Eg:

  • Shifting the flagged area during the day due to a change in conditions.
  • Preventing swimmers from entering a rip or hole.
  • Removing or isolating broken glass or other hazards from the beach.

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