Oceans' 20 is the largest junior Surf Life Saving event in New Zealand, and though it's a national event, it's virtually synonymous with Mount Maunganui.

In the 20 years it's been running, the competition has been held at Mount Maunganui 19 times, and with good reason.

"The Mount is the perfect beach for this event," event manager Matt Warren said.

"We've got lots of beach, the athletes like coming here, all of the kids and their parents come back year after year and they just have a really enjoyable time."


The event ensures a healthy pipeline of junior lifeguards in the making.

"This event's all about having the kids competing in a surf environment and we want them to have enough fun that they come back year after year, and then continue in the organisation and become life guards, and they'll be the people that are then rescuing people in the future. This is creating lifeguards for us."

Competitors descend on the Bay of Plenty from all corners of New Zealand and beyond.

"We've got a couple of teams from down in Dunedin that have come up, a few from Christchurch and right up to Auckland and the far North. We've got about 830 competitors from 47 clubs around New Zealand. The 47th is actually an Australian club that's come over for the first time," Warren said.

Volunteer Greg Rieger has been involved from the start.

"It's just grown so much - 283 people in the first one and what are we now ... 830," he said.

"It's radically changing. We just had a few tents on the beach and a dias for first, second and third place. Now we've got this enormous grandstand, tent city, food halls… everything. It's just unbelievable."

For local mum Tania Fowler, the four-day competition is a real family event.


"My husband and I do officiating, we've done managing, we've done nippers since the kids were five.

"We see surf lifesaving as a lifestyle," she said. "What we see surf lifesaving does is keep them fit because they do beach and the surf as well. Danielle, my eldest daughter's done it, this is her fourth year."

And for 14-year old Danielle, it's about much more than just winning.

"The competition's really tough and I get to meet a lot of new people around the county and there's also Aussies here so I get to meet them and it's really fun."

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