The actions of 15-year-old Kayla Baker in saving the lives of two terrified children highlight once again the importance of the country's lifeguard service not only in terms of making our beaches safer but in imparting valuable skills to young people.
As reported in the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday, Kayla, a Pukehina lifeguard, was watching over the red and yellow flags at the beach when she spotted a young boy and girl playing in waves.
The children, aged about 9 and 10, were not strong swimmers and had become stuck in a flash rip.
Kayla dashed out to sea and swam after the children. By the time she reached them, the boy was nearly gone, she said. Kayla helped calm the children down and strapped them to her rescue tube before bringing them back to shore, where their mother was waiting.
Fellow 15-year-old Pukehina lifeguard Logan Russell also rescued a child, believed to be about 11, that day.
The rescues were two of a series of lifesaving actions along the Bay's coastline at the weekend.
The fact that both Logan and Kayla had the skills and calmness of mind to carry out the rescues in such trying circumstances speaks volumes about their training.
As this paper has noted before, learning to swim is essential for all children but even then the power and unpredictable nature of the ocean means it is a dangerous place.
The rescues highlight just how quickly people can find themselves in serious trouble in the surf.
They also highlight the fact that lifeguards can be the difference between life and death for a swimmer caught in a rip or struggling in heavy swells.
Sport teaches young people many skills including sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication and determination, but in my view lifesaving clubs offer something above and beyond this.
What other sport provides the skills to save someone's life as part of its training?
Life saving clubs should never be reduced to the begging bowl to fund their work.