The fossils were on patrol in Whangamatā recently and they are growing in numbers.

Fossil patrol is a colloquial name given to the group of lifeguards at Whangamatā SLSC, since most who guard the beach over summer are aged between 17 and 21.

So when Gary Gotlieb, 75, and his younger fellow fossils Cam Marett, Nathan Hight and Jono Salisbury took over to give the young ones a break for Anniversary Weekend activities in Mount Maunganui, the stories of prehistoric patrols start flowing.

Jono has been in the club for 26 years and Nathan the same.

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For Gary, it's 60 years.

"We used to compete in the six-man, which involved six of us, one acting as the patient, and you'd have to swim out to a buoy and bring him in. We'd get huge crowds watching. In the 60s, when it started, it was amazing."

The equipment and events may have modernised but the focus remains the same today — excellence in rescue and resuscitation, and keeping people safe on the beach.

Training must be refreshed annually, which puts the fossils alongside the "young 'uns" and ensures age is no excuse for a lack of fitness.

"You have to keep them on their toes too," says Jono. "And it brings us together once a year to see if everyone is okay and cement friendships."

Nathan says Whangamatā SLSC is a "pretty famous alumni", with "high-performing humans" that head up large corporate teams from New Zealand to Abu Dhabi.

"There's high expectations that everyone has within the organisation and ourselves, and we've supported each other right the way through," says Jono.

"They say 'in it for life' and we do that. You see each other maybe once a year but it never changes."

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The club has a growing number of fossils — between 30 and 40.

Cam travelled from Napier to do his fossil patrol in Whangamatā and he does not own a bach here, instead sleeping at the club.

"I've had 27 years with the club. I like coming back to this beautiful beach and catching up with the boys and telling stories.

"The older we get, the better we were."