When Matt Cairns joined the Pāpāmoa Surf Life Saving Club he felt like his family was just as important as he was.
That's just one of the many reasons he loves the club and the Surf Lifesaving environment as a whole.
Cairns was club coach of the Pāpāmoa Surf Life Saving Club in the 2017-2018 season, as well as the Junior Black Fins, which he continues to coach today. In that time he coached more than 100 athletes at the club, gaining more than 80 medals.
When the Junior Black Fins were at the 2018 Lifesaving World Championships, they won 72 medals and finished second overall in the youth section. Winning their second test match, however, was one of his biggest highlights, Cairns says.
"Balancing the club coaching with the national coaching has been pretty cool," he says.
These are just some of the reasons behind Cairns being named the TSB Coach of the Year at the Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) Awards of Excellence held at Auckland's Heritage Hotel on Saturday night.
Every year, awards are given to SLSNZ members to officially recognise them for their hard work and dedication to Surf Life Saving in New Zealand. Most awards are nominated locally with winners from their regional Awards of Excellence ceremonies then becoming finalists for the national awards.
Cairns says the Bay of Plenty is well represented through the Junior Black Fins, with athletes and management staff from the area - and this is why he says he accepts his award on behalf of a team.
He says he is humbled to have won the award but it really is "a team effort".
Although no longer at Pāpāmoa, Cairns says he loved his time with the club, including three years of coaching and four as a member. Two months ago, Cairns and his family including wife Joy, 5-year-old daughter Olive and 5-month-old son Jack, moved home to Gisborne.
"We always intended to move back home, my wife and I both grew up in Gisborne."
They spent about five years in the Bay of Plenty.
"Pāpāmoa were so awesome to my family.
"One of the real highlights at Pāpāmoa was how welcoming they were ... my wife and kids were just as important to them."
Surf lifesaving is something Cairns has always been involved in, it was something his dad got him into as a "little fulla".
He says surf lifesaving is really a community and more often than not, people stay involved for most of their life. He says the people receiving their 50-year service badges at the weekend's awards highlighted that.
"It's such a great family and community environment."
It is no surprise Cairns says his own children will be joining in as soon as they are old enough.
"Water safety is a must for any Kiwi kid, how far they want to take it will completely up to them."
SLSNZ chief executive Paul Dalton says he is always amazed by the work of surf lifeguards who made such an invaluable contribution to communities around the country.
"From saving lives through rescues, to teaching young people about surf safety, and coaching young athletes to be the best they can be, they've all excelled and we're very proud of that," Dalton says.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand and the 18,600 members now turn to their attention back to the fast-approaching summer season, with patrols set to start in some areas from next month.
SLSNZ Awards of Excellence - Winners:
TSB Coach of the Year: Matt Cairns, Papamoa SLSC
DHL Instructor of the Year: Max Jones, Whangamata SLSC
- Kevin Barugh, Pukehina SR
- Denise Bracken, Pauanui SLSC
- Matthew Williams, Muriwai VLS/Pauanui SLSC