Bay of Plenty surf lifesavers have taken out half of this year's national awards.

They were among dozens of heroic lifeguards, selfless volunteers, and world champion athletes who were finalists at the Surf Life Saving NZ Awards of Excellence at Te Papa at the weekend.

Mount Maunganui's John Bryant was named Coach of the Year, Jo Miller, of Pāpāmoa, was named Surf Official of the Year, Volunteer of the Year was Rachelle Bright, of Whangamatā, Lifeguard of the Year was James Lloyd, of Waihī Beach, and the Wāhine on the Water team won Innovation of the Year (including Phoebe Havill from Onemana and Julia Conway and Philip Pirie from Mount Maunganui).

Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club member Julia Conway (back left) on duty in 2011. Photo / File
Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club member Julia Conway (back left) on duty in 2011. Photo / File

There were between six and 12 finalists in each category.


Rachelle Bright has been Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club's captain for the past three seasons.

In the past year she was a junior surf coach, new lifeguard instructor, and helped organise training courses.

Regionally she has been a lesson designer, patrol auditor, instructor and examiner, was chair of the area lifesaving committee and contributed to peer support.

"For the past 10 years Rachelle has held a range of roles within the club, dedicated herself to the club, implemented new initiatives, and has been a positive influence on all members throughout the entire season," new club captain Max Jones said.

Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club patrol site. Photo / File
Whangamatā Surf Life Saving Club patrol site. Photo / File

Meanwhile, Waihī Beach Lifeguard Services said James Lloyd put in many hours of hard work to support their strong contingent of lifeguards, and had formed an enthusiastic lifeguard sub-committee, which had been successfully ticking off goals to benefit the club.

The Wāhine on the Water team brainstormed a way to encourage more women to feel comfortable qualifying as IRB drivers and in other senior roles.

They launched a series of women-mentored training days that have now been extended nationally.

There are 74 Surf Life Saving NZ clubs throughout the country, and all are run by volunteers.


"We have seen some great new innovations to improve our services, like the Wāhine on Water programme, which will see the organisation creating a solid future," senior executive Matt Warren said.

"We have thousands of members that put in a massive amount of work both on the beach and behind the scenes to ensure we keep saving lives. It is great to recognise some of the hardest workers like Rachelle Bright, Volunteer of the Year and James Lloyd, Surf Lifeguard of the Year, for the work they have done."

Throughout the country there are 18,832 club members, including 4903 lifeguards.

Surf Life Saving NZ said in the 2018/19 year surf lifesavers saved 702 people from life-threatening situations, and between July 1 to June 30 they helped 1622 people to safety from dangerous situations.

It took part in 381 searches, provided first aid 2578 times, and took preventative action to keep people safe on the beach 118,307 times.

- Supplied content

Complete list of wider Bay of Plenty club members who were national finalists

Volunteer of the Year

Rachelle Bright – Whangamatā

Andrew McDowell – Pukehina

Innovation of the Year
Wāhine on the Water – Coromandel
Vivien Conway - Mt Maunganui

Lifeguard of the Year
James Lloyd – Waihī Beach
Haven Bellamy – Ōmanu

Instructor of the Year
Hamish Clayton – Waihi Beach
Ryan Hohneck – Pāpāmoa

Surf Official of the Year
Jo Miller – Pāpāmoa

Coach of the Year
John Bryant – Mt Maunganui

Rescue of the Year
Waihī Beach