Surf life saving is unique in that it trains young people to save lives as well as compete in a highly competitive sport. This weekend, the next generation will be on display in Mount Maunganui.
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This weekend, Surf Life Saving New Zealand marks the 20th anniversary of an event which has made a name for itself as the breeding ground for young stars.
Oceans' 20, being held at Mount Maunganui's Main Beach from Thursday to Sunday, will see 823 of New Zealand's best surf lifesavers under the age of 14 battle it out on the beach and in the sea.
Oceans' began in 2000 and has grown to become Surf Life Saving New Zealand's largest event for junior club members, typically attracting between 800-1000 competitors each year. Mount Maunganui is the spiritual home of the event, having hosted 19 of the 20 editions.
Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service club coach John Bryant said the club had 67 children signed up for the event.
"We're always pretty stoked, not only because it's Oceans' 20 but also because it's on our home beach. It's always something we enjoy doing, racing on home beach, whether it gives us an advantage or not, who knows but I know the kids are all amped.
"We were in Whakatāne for Eastern Regionals last weekend and we probably didn't race as well as what we could. That can work two ways, I think for us it means rather than go in full of confidence, we'll go in knowing we have to do all the little things correctly.
"When they're that young, they can get a bit cocky so if they're knocked down a couple of pegs and they can reflect and think about it, they can move forward from there."
Bryant said these events were valuable in that they teach the children life skills.
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"We live around the water in Tauranga here and you see all the drownings that happen in New Zealand - the Oceans' programme is the age where they learn a lot of life skills around water.
"At the end of the day, they'll be the ones who will be helping someone else out one day who might be in trouble."
Surf Life Saving NZ sport manager for central region Richard Whinham said the competitive side of the sport was crucial in producing good lifeguards. The participants, aged 10-14, are all lifeguards in training. They are working up the fitness and skills to be a fully qualified surf lifeguard at 14. Oceans' brings them all together in a fun, safe and competitive environment.
"It's their main event for the season, it's their big show," Whinham said.
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"These are the life guards of the future and there will be some very good talent on show. The sporting side is crucial because without we would have nowhere near the number or the quality of the lifeguards that we have.
"The sport element to surf life saving makes fitter, faster life guards which in turn saves lives. If we didn't have the sporting aspect of what we do, we wouldn't have as many people - it's a major recruitment tool - and they certainly wouldn't be as good as they are in the water because they spend so much time out there training for the sport side of things."
Oceans' 20 Junior Surf Life Saving Competition at a glance
Mount Maunganui - Main Beach
Thursday, 27 February to Sunday, 1 March 2020
823 competitors, 440 girls, 383 boys, 46 of 74 NZ Surf Life Saving Clubs taking part + 1 Australian club.
U11, U12, U13, U14.
Sprint, Flags, Run Swim Run, Surf Race, Diamond Race (swim, board and run), Board Race.
Beach Relay, 2km Beach Relay, Board Relay, Grand Cameron Relay (6 person run, swim, board paddle event), Tube Rescue and Board Rescue.