Along with post-apocalyptic sunsets, great fish and chips, and world-class pointbreak surf, Ahipara is also gaining a reputation for producing qualified surf lifeguards.

The nearly three dozen youth seen splashing around over a very high tide on a recent Sunday morning, or being taken out for a blatt past the surfline in one of the club's IRBs, were all involved in the weekly nippers programme being run by Far North Surf Rescue which is the only surf rescue patrol operating in the district.

FNSR junior surf co-ordinator June Matiu noted the programme was designed for children aged seven to 13 who have to progress through various stages in order to earn rookie status.

Rookies can then aim for their volunteer guard qualification and potentially a professional career.


June noted there were some strict criteria involved with lifeguards having to be able to swim 400m in under 9 minutes, while rookies have to be able to cover 200m in under 4½ minutes.

"Pretty hard stuff," she said, adding most of her nippers were already accomplished and/or competitive swimmers.

She also thanked the volunteer lifeguards - whose annual summer patrol season ended on Waitangi Day Weekend - for their input to the programme which included coming down and giving the nippers IRB rides.

June noted the Sunday morning sessions which began in early January were due to wrap up later this month, with the final day likely to be a relatively big occasion with the nippers presented with certificates to mark their progress.

June said the programme had continued to grow over the two years she's been involved, with new recruits seemingly coming out of the driftwood. She even admitted to wondering how the club would cater if numbers continued to grow at the present rate.

"I think the word's got out," she laughed before reminding anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard, "It's not Baywatch!"