Lifeguard, Shaun Smith has spent more than four decades pulling people from the water.

And at 61 years old, he's one of the oldest active lifeguards in the Bay of Plenty.

"We call him the old goat, the old is pretty self explanatory and the goat - he staggers around here and there but he gets the job done," fellow lifeguard, Daniel Edwards said.

"I'm sure they will tell me if I'm not keeping up and give me a hard time about it," Smith said.

He's a bit of a legend here in Papamoa, well known to the locals.

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"The kids hate me going for a roam down the beach cause everyone just about knows me. It's meant to take 35 minutes but it takes me an hour and a half."

For most of the year, Smith's a builder but during the summer months he takes on the job of Head Lifeguard.

His wife and three sons have also gone through the ranks and in 2016 he won New Zealand 'Lifeguard of the Year'.

Smith has lost count of how many people he's saved but remembers all of the drownings. There's been 32 over his 42 years of service but, he says, no one has drowned swimming between the flags.

"One girl went under the water and we grabbed her by the hair and pulled her out. I was thinking 'I wonder if she would have drowned or come up again?'

"But we don't do it for the rescues. I'd love to say this year in Papamoa, we've been done such good job on the beach doing preventatives that we had no rescues - that would be the perfect beach."

When Smith first started lifeguarding, there were 800 people living in Papamoa, now there's around twenty five thousand.

"Papamoa is a growing community. On New Years Day we had 300 people on the beach by 10am," he says.

"There's another 13k that go down there and does not have facilities and that's a lot of beach for people to go on, so I'm pushing for a bit of funding from the Council to help us get lifeguards down there."

Clearly the 'old goat' isn't slowing down, with no plans to retire just yet.

"It's my passion. On my shirt it says in it for life. I'm in it for life."

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