Greg Rieger will never forget the outpouring of support shown by the surf life saving community following the tragic death of his son.

The memory of that support is what now drives his unfailing dedication to Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

Mr Rieger was named TSB Bank Surf Official of the Year in the Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence and says he chose to continue his service after losing his 17-year-old son, Hamish, in January last year.

Hamish was watching the surf at the blowhole on Moturiki (Leisure) Island when he was snatched by a rogue wave and swept out to sea.


The Mount Maunganui lifeguard's body was found less than a day later after a search by dozens of fellow surf lifesavers.

"I could have easily walked away from surf life saving because of the accident, but I know that Hamish would have wanted us to carry on," Mr Rieger said.

Hamish Rieger was full of life. Photo/Jamie Troughton, Dscribe Media Services
Hamish Rieger was full of life. Photo/Jamie Troughton, Dscribe Media Services

The Rieger family - Greg, Donna and Hamish's siblings Oliver, Fergus and Eliza-Jane - have been heavily involved in the surf lifesaving community.

Mr Rieger said his son was also involved in the search for 5-year-old Jack Dixon who was swept out to sea by a rogue wave on October 1, 2014.

"Just because of the tragedy of Jack Dixon, we did not give up," Mr Rieger said.

He said his role as a Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service surf official was a way of giving back to the surf life saving community for the support it showed following Hamish's death.

"There is no way I could walk away from Surf Life Saving NZ now."

In his 18-year role, Mr Rieger has officiated at 18 local, regional, national and international events last season including the New Zealand Pool Championships, Oceans '17, TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships and the World Masters Games.

Mr Rieger admitted he was never very good at surf life saving himself, so he put his hand up as a volunteer instead.

"With the kids going through junior surf club, I was always a parent on the sideline and got involved as an official and it just naturally flowed on from there," he said.

"Some people go and watch rugby, and other sports and mine is surf life saving. I love it, and I still love it. When they say, you are in it for life that is so true."

Mount Maunganui's Greg Rieger has been named TSB Bank Surf Official of the Year. Photo/John Borren
Mount Maunganui's Greg Rieger has been named TSB Bank Surf Official of the Year. Photo/John Borren

It was hard to accept individual recognition for the award, Mr Rieger said. "It is not just me, you are part of a team, and I have an amazing team here in the Bay."

Mr Rieger said surf life saving was an important part of living in the Bay and felt privileged to be involved in some of the biggest surf carnivals.

"We have got some of the best beaches on our doorstep, and some of the biggest carnivals are hosted here in the Bay. And we have seen some of the best athletes right here in our own backyard."

Surf Life Saving NZ Eastern Region sport manager Mark Inglis said Mr Rieger was well-deserving of the award.

"Whenever I put a call out asking for volunteer help Greg is one of the first to offer his assistance," he said. "He has been invaluable."

He said Mr Rieger was held in high regard by fellow officials and competitors.

"He is a great person to have out there on our beaches," he said. "We could not run our competitions if it were not for people like Greg."

12 half-marathons in 12 months

Greg and Donna Rieger are attempting 12 half-marathons in 12 months to raise funds for the 'I Ride With Hame' project.

All money raised will be used to create scholarships for the Spirit of Adventure Trust which Hamish went on in 2015, just five months before his death.

To support the fundraiser, donate direct to 'I Ride With Hame' ASB 12-3011-0461607-52. All funds go towards the Spirit of Adventure Trust.

To join the Riegers by doing any of the 12 half-marathons, contact Greg via the Facebook page 'I Ride With Hame'.