A father and son from Ōtaki Surf Lifesaving Club have taken out two big awards at the Capital Coast Awards of Excellence earlier this month.

Marking the end of the surf lifesaving season, the awards acknowledge the work of the volunteers at surf lifesaving clubs at Palmerston North, Riversdale, Foxton, Levin/Waitarere, Ōtaki, Paekākāriki, Titahi Bay, Maranui, Lyall Bay and Worser Bay.

Walter Maxwell won Coach of the Year and his son Luther took out U19 Sportsperson of the Year.

With surf lifesaving not getting much funding or publicity Walter said, "It was fantastic to be recognised in this way".

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Coaching at the club for the last three years but involved in surf lifesaving for about 20 years, Walter's involvement started back when he was a kid.

Ōtaki Surf Lifesaving team with coach Walter Maxwell, back right and Luther Maxwell, front second from left.
Ōtaki Surf Lifesaving team with coach Walter Maxwell, back right and Luther Maxwell, front second from left.

Growing up in Gisborne, he started out at beaches there, but took a break until his children were old enough to be involved.

On a trip back to his old home, Walter and his wife decided they would invest their time and effort getting their children involved in surf lifesaving, not just for the sport but in order to keep them safe in the water.

Twenty years later they can still be found at the club rooms every summer, now based in Ōtaki with Ōtaki Surf Lifesaving Club.

"The Ōtaki club is fantastic, it's a great little club down here.

"There's a great community feel, great community spirit."

Following his older siblings in surf lifesaving, Luther won this year's U19 Sports Person of the Year award for Capital Coast.

Now based in Australia training, Luther has aspirations to take surf lifesaving as far as he can.

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This has meant moving across the ditch to train after splitting his time between New Zealand and Australia for the last year or so.

Being an amateur sport, his father said that despite there not being many opportunities compared to sports supported through Olympic funding, Luther has self-funded his move to Australia to train and pursue his surf goals.

"He has aspirations to take it to the next level, to take it to the top of where you can take surf sport.

"It's an amateur sport unless you can make it to the top 2 per cent but that's what he's aiming for."

Luther has continuously achieved exceptional results on the national stage while proudly representing his club and region.

At the TSB Nationals Surf Life Saving Championships earlier this year he picked up one gold medal, two silvers and two bronze medals.

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"A huge congratulations to Luther after another fantastic season," Central Region sports manager Troy Greenem said.

Troy said Lifesaving Sport in the Capital Coast had a "fantastic" season with clubs competing well in all national and regional events.

Lyall Bay, Titahi Bay, Ōtaki and Paekākāriki clubs placed within the top 15 at the TSB Nationals Surf Life Saving Championships 2020.

Titahi Bay, Lyall Bay and Paekākāriki placed within top 18 at Oceans 20.

Coaching the competitive athletes at the club, Walter and his team have to be creative in order to compete with the bigger clubs up north.

"In this region, our conditions and weather are not as conducive for a surf athlete," Walter said.

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"We've got to compete against athletes further north who during daylight hours can get more time in the water than we can.

"We have to be more inventive and creative with training.

"But the commitment to train is quite substantial.

"Like most little towns in this country where you can leave your front door open, it's very much the same feel with Ōtaki-very open, very friendly.

"We couldn't say enough for our little club."

Surf Life Saving NZ Awards of Excellence are held every year in each SLSNZ region to recognise and celebrate the many club members putting in considerable time, effort and skills at a grass-roots level to make sure Kiwis who head to the beach get home safe.

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The regional awards culminate in the National Awards of Excellence which will be held on September 19.

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