Eight Waihi Beach lifeguards have been recognised with the national BP Rescue of the Month award after saving a man who had a stroke while out in the surf.

Surf Lifesaving New Zealand lifeguards Nathaniel Palla, Matthew Lloyd, Ben Grant, Jordyn McClennan, Michiel Cumming, Maddie Scown, Dave Grant and Duncan Gibson worked together to save a man who was close to drowning after being suffering a serious stroke while out surfing on February 15.

Something looked odd to off-duty lifeguard Nathaniel Palla, who found a man barely clinging to his surfboard, and recognised the signs of a stroke.

He called to Duncan Gibson, another off-duty lifeguard who was surfing and asked him to go for help.


He began paddling the surfer back to shore with the help of another surfer, using rescue techniques to keep the man's head above water, and keep his airway clear from vomit.

In the club tower, lifeguards sprang into action calling 111, and relaying medical directions from the ambulance service back to the lifeguards on the beach.

The lifeguards gave first aid care to the man for about an hour and a half before paramedics arrived.

In February, the surfer's mother wrote a heartfelt letter to the Surf Lifesaving Club, thanking them for saving her son.

It read: "Last Friday your team saved my son's life. Although you were not officially on duty, someone noticed him lying on his [surf] board and thought they should take a look.

The mother said her son had "a loving wife and four wonderful children" and she was a "very, very, grateful mother".

She also paid tribute to the lifeguards for looking after her son's dog and keeping track of his belongings, saying this was such a "wonderful help" to the family.

Palla said: "When we get good results like this and messages from families that are affected it makes all the training worthwhile and I am super stoked to get the BP Rescue of the Month award, as it's such a prestigious award.


The surfer was discharged from hospital last week after spending 12 weeks there.

"It was really good to get the updates afterwards and it's a great feeling to know you've saved someone's life… you think about how different things would be for their family otherwise," lifeguard Matthew Lloyd said.

The rescued man's family attended the award presentation.