Waipū couldn't have been any closer to beating the world champions and winning the Northern Region IRB championships last weekend at Ruakaka.

The surf life saving club, which entered two teams (Vikings and Dinoco) in the event, finished second on points behind the Sunset Beach Surf Life Saving Club from Waikato, who won the global title in November last year.

Eight clubs contested the regional championship and was held alongside junior swimming carnival, which attracted about 420 junior swimmers from 11 northern region clubs, making it one of the biggest in the event's history.

Teams of three to five competed in the IRB competition and performed in multiple races, including single and mass rescue where a driver and crew would save one or three people in the water, as well as assembling a boat and a team event.

Advertisement

Points could be earned in the races, in which clubs that had more teams had a greater chance of gathering more points.

"I thought we were going to come about fourth or fifth and we didn't hear our names get called out and all of a sudden it popped up as second, so that was pretty good," Waipū Vikings team member Josh Baker said.

Two drivers swapping over in the teams event: Jake McClure (right) from Dinoco and going out Bailey Hudson from Vikings. Photo / Alyssa Flannagan
Two drivers swapping over in the teams event: Jake McClure (right) from Dinoco and going out Bailey Hudson from Vikings. Photo / Alyssa Flannagan

Fifteen-year-old Baker, who was competing in his first IRB competition as crewman, said a lack of surf hadn't affected the Waipū teams, who had trained for every possibility.

"It was a little bit windy and not many waves but we'd trained in most of the conditions so we weren't really phased by it.

"We would've preferred for it to be a bit flatter so we could go straight out and straight in."

The Vikings team were first in the single rescue and second in the mass rescue, teams event and assembly. The Dinoco team were first in assembly, second in tube and teams, and third in single rescue.

"We weren't really expecting anything and the driver, Bailey [Hudson], was just training me up but in the first race when we got gold, we were pretty stoked and happy to go from there and do whatever we could," he said.

Baker competed alongside his 17-year-old sister Emma, who acted as the patient in the water for the driver and crew to pick up and return to the beach.

She said she was happy to come close to the world champions with her brother in the team.

"We were pretty stoked to get second to [Sunset].

"It took a lot of training and a lot of time working on the boats and perfecting our technique."

Along with the driver Bailey, who was 18, the Waipū Vikings were one of the younger teams at the competition, which Emma said, made them one of the underdogs.

"It probably put us more at a disadvantage because we don't have as much experience as clubs like Sunset have."

Crews race against each other on a sunny day in Ruakaka. Photo / Supplied
Crews race against each other on a sunny day in Ruakaka. Photo / Supplied

Despite their lack of experience, Emma said the communication between the two Waipū teams allowed them to share ideas and improve their overall performances.

She said this result was a stepping stone to better performances at the North Island championships at Waihi Beach in February.

Surf Life Saving NZ Northern Region sport manager Lewis McClintock said Waipū's second place was an achievement to be proud of.

"[Sunset] are streaks ahead of other clubs in the country so it's an outstanding achievement considering Waipū is a pretty small club in relation to others.

"They basically dominated the under-19 age group, which is really good to see that they've got some good youngsters developing."

McClintock said the competition was great viewing for the children who had come to compete in the junior swimming meet.

"It's basically motorsport on the water.

"They get some good air going out and they come in pretty quick and that's what the kids want to see."

He said events like these were great for clubs, who would otherwise be operating in isolation, to come together and use it as an opportunity to build club spirit.

While racing an IRB was different to using one on patrol, McClintock said these events would give New Zealand's lifeguards more confidence when operating an IRB.

"The better that someone knows their boat will make them become a better lifeguard, which will help them save lives and that's what we are all about."