Surf Life Saving New Zealand

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Surf Life Saving New Zealand Inc.
SLSNZ Logo.gif
MottoIn it for Life
FormationMarch 1, 1910; 108 years ago (1910-03-01)
Legal statusIncorporated Society, Charity
PurposeTo protect our community in the water.
Region served
New Zealand
19 000
Brian Velvin[1]
Main organ
Board of Directors[2]
19 000
WebsiteSLSNZ Website

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is the national association representing 74 Surf Life Saving clubs in New Zealand.[1] The organisation's motto is 'In it for Life'. This refers to both the long relationship many members have with the organisation, as well as to the organisation's purpose of preventing drowning and injury, thereby saving lives.

Specific New Zealand beaches are patrolled by qualified Surf Lifeguards from mid October until April each year. Red and Yellow flags indicate that a beach is patrolled by Surf Lifeguards. The area of water in between these flags is designated as the safest place to swim on the beach, as well as showing where Surf Lifeguards are patrolling. It is widely publicised that beachgoers should "Swim Between the Flags" in order to be safe while swimming in the ocean.

Surf lifeguards are identifiable by their yellow shirts and red shorts. Surf Life Saving New Zealand is sponsored chiefly by BP, TSB, DHL and Lotto .

A Red-Yellow flag indicating a patrolled beach


In the early years of the 20th century, the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association (NZASA) controlled the limited amount of life saving activity by explaining resuscitation methods and providing demonstrations at swimming club carnivals. The next step occurred in 1912 when the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) was formed during a conference, called by Canterbury, of all the head centres. The RLSS was established in Christchurch and remains there to this day.[2]

The first surf clubs began in the years 1909-1910 leading off with: Castlecliff (Wanganui), Lyall Bay (Wellington), New Brighton (Christchurch) and Worser Bay Wellington. Over the next few years other clubs formed, around five regions: Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne/Napier/New Plymouth and Wanganui.

In the Northern Region, Piha Surf Life Saving Club was founded in 1934, and as such is the oldest club on Auckland's West Coast and is the home of Piha Rescue.

Soon after the clubs were formed, rivalries developed and this led to the formation of competitions between the clubs and regions. By early 1912 competitions were being organised by Wellington's Maranui Club, with male members competing in squads of 8. The competitions consisted of a land drill and 'reel test'. The first national champs where clubs were able to compete was held in 1922.

Surf Life Saving in New Zealand continues to grow in size and there are now 74 affiliated surf clubs.

Organisational structure[edit]

Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) is the national association representing 74 Surf Life Saving Clubs in New Zealand.

Around 19,000 people are members of SLSNZ. The 74 clubs are grouped for consultation and programme delivery purposes into local regions, and are supported by Surf Life Saving New Zealand staff. These new groupings were an outcome of the membership voting in a new and bold constitution in September 2009.

About surf lifesaving[edit]

In New Zealand, surf lifesaving is both a sport and a community service. To participate in either facet it is necessary to be a member of a club, and to have the ‘entry level’ qualification - the Surf Lifeguard Award, formerly the Bronze Medallion.

There are a range of other surf lifeguard and surf related qualifications available through the SLSNZ structure, including more advanced lifesaving certificates, Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) qualifications, VHF radio and first aid qualifications.

Volunteer lifeguards patrol beaches and work with the public to prevent people getting in trouble. In the summer of 2016 volunteers performed over 107,000 preventative actions during 222,000 hours of beach patrols.

Sport events are held at club, regional and national level, and in the age categories of Under 16, Under 19 and Open. Events span the range of rescue skills and test competitors’ strength, fitness and agility in swimming, running, paddling a surf ski, board or canoe or rowing a surf boat. Racing Inflatable Rescue Boats is an increasingly popular part of the sport.


SLSNZ's income is $6m a year derived from sponsorship, gaming machine grants and The NZ Lottery Grants Board. The organisation's total income is approximately $13m. SLSNZ does not charge a national membership levy, instead providing programmes and distributing over $2m each year to clubs.

Patrol statistics[edit]

For the 2016/17 Season (last reported season), Surf Lifeguards attended the following incidents (as per annual report):[3]

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Totals

  • Hours worked: 223,019
  • Lives saved (rescues): 1,796
  • First aid actions: 2,443
  • Searches completed: 290
  • Preventative actions: 74,621

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SLSNZ Website: The Organisational Structure
  2. ^ Jackson, Ivan (2006). Sand Between My Toes: the story of Surf Life Saving in New Zealand. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-302062-5.
  3. ^ "SLSNZ Annual Report 2016/17".

See also[edit]