The efforts of Mount Maunganui lifeguards who braved huge surf in an effort to find Jack Dixon have been recognised.

Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae last night presented club president Brent Warner with a certificate of achievement for operational activity at the 2014 New Zealand Search and Rescue Council Awards at Government House in Wellington.

The award recognised the commitment of club members who searched for 5-year-old Jack Dixon who was swept away by a freak wave while playing at Shelly Beach at the base of Mauao on October 1.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said the club was proud to receive one of the six certificates of achievement for operational activity awarded last night.


"This was the kind of situation that we hope we never have to be involved in but must be prepared for. We are incredibly proud of the way our lifeguards and those of our neighbouring clubs came together and contributed throughout the entire search," he said.

"Many of us still feel frustrated that ultimately we weren't able to return Jack to his family, but we can hold our heads high knowing we did everything possible.

"Conditions during the first day of that search were treacherous and we can also be proud that our lifeguards conducted themselves and looked after each other in a way that we did everything possible and at the same time avoided further tragedy."

Mr Bradley said many club members sent their love to Jack's family on a regular basis and often reflected on the search but found it difficult to "consider themselves proud in a time of tragedy".

"We were just doing what we could, we are just clubbies, we are just lifeguards."

Mr Bradley said the tragedy had galvanised the club members and motivated them to focus on prevention to make sure no one else was lost in the large surf during the busy summer season.

An overview of the search in the awards booklet described it as the largest search operation the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service had been involved in.

Off duty lifeguards were the first to start the search and the last to give up - club members were still searching almost two weeks after Jack disappeared.


About 1500 hours of searching were logged by club volunteers with 20 to 30 members involved in the week following Jack's disappearance.

The club co-ordinated and managed the water searches and due to the extremely difficult conditions only the strongest, fittest and most experienced lifeguards conducted searches in the water.

Visibility in the water was poor, but they searched in and around rocks close to shore as well as the entire base of Mauao, 100m to 200m offshore and further out to sea in a 3.5m easterly swell and strong winds.

The Mount Maunganui Club were also assisted by Omanu and Papamoa surf lifesaving clubs.