The heroic efforts of Whangamata lifesavers who saved nine people stranded offshore on rocks have resulted in the New Zealand BP Rescue of the Month.
The daring rescue was made at Whenuakura Island (sometimes referred to as Donut Island) on March 31 in the midst of a 1.5m swell and rocks around the island.
The crew, made up of Max Jones, Andrew Hodgson, Josh Kerridge, Brandon Dromgool, Mitchell Hohaia, Ben Goffin and Callum Fulton, used several surf lifesaving techniques throughout the rescue including specialised rock rescue techniques.
Jones and Hohaia were conducting a sweep of the islands around Whangamata when they were alerted to six people stuck on Whenuakura by off-duty lifeguards Dromgool and Kerridge.
A 1.5m surge was passing through the entry of the islands, making any rescue attempt tricky.
Knowing the rescue would require additional assets, Kerridge and Dromgool remained outside the entrance to the island while Jones and Hohaia contacted the patrol for help before returning to the club to collect equipment for a rock rescue. Police and Coastguard were put on standby.
Once inside the island, the three lifeguards assessed the distressed and trapped patients and planned to escort each person via a secondary exit to the island - through a cave about as big a person, pitch black and about 20m long.
The patients were brought through the cave where they were transferred from the rocks, back into the water and into the waiting IRBs. One at a time, the patients were helped from the rocks, into the water and towed about 25m to the waiting IRBs.
The patients were ferried back to shore where, apart from a few minor cuts and being a bit shaken up, they were deemed to be okay.
Jones headed back out to the island to retrieve the remaining lifeguards when he noticed three more people in trouble on a rocky outcrop near where the original rescue took place. A similar process occurred, with lifeguards swimming all three patients off the rocks into the waiting IRBs and towing the kayak back to shore.
For their efforts, the club will receive a $500 BP gift voucher.
BP New Zealand managing director Debi Boffa said the skills demonstrated by the lifeguards involved were outstanding.
"Since 1968 we have been proud to stand behind this amazing organisation who educate people about how to stay safe on our beaches as well as helping save the lives of thousands of people every year," she said.
Pukehina Surf Rescue and Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifeguard Service will receive $300 and $200 BP gift cards as second and third place winners respectively.
Each month, Surf Life Saving New Zealand invites clubs to submit their rescues to be judged for the title of BP Rescue of the Month which aims to recognise operational excellence by surf lifeguards around the country.