This summer NZME is helping Surf Life Saving to help save lives. The charity relies on the goodwill of thousands of volunteers, fundraising, grants and sponsorship to keep our beaches patrolled. Here's your chance to help raise money for new equipment and lifeguard training.
Come midday on Christmas Day, a crab fisherman had drowned at Uretiti Beach, south of Whangārei, in 1.5m waves.
The lifeguards involved in the search for the fisherman, and later recovery of his body, have been hailed for their professionalism by Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
"Because of these lifeguards, the deceased patient was able to be returned to his family on Christmas Day," said Surf Life Saving Northern Region duty officer Dan Short.
The dramatic rescue involved the efforts of lifeguards from the Ruakaka and Waipū Cove clubs, police, a Northland Emergency Services Trust chopper, St John and Fire and Emergency.
Coastguard's air patrol, Marsden Rescue and a Northland Search and Rescue co-ordinator were also en route.
Local boaties, hearing Coastguard's mayday call, also rushed in to help with the search effort.
Soon after 10am lifeguards received reports of a crab fisherman in distress off Uretiti Beach in Bream Bay, Short said.
"Those involved instantly recognised the severity of the call based on the history of similar incidents in the area," he said.
Surf lifeguards at Ruakaka sped towards Uretiti Beach in an IRB (inflatable rescue boat), as did a Rescue Water Craft (jetski) from Ruakaka and an IRB from nearby Waipū Cove.
Lifeguards arrived to see police talking to a witness.
"All that could be seen in the water were the fisherman's crab pots behind the 1.5m waves," Short said.
The fisherman had been crabbing at a beach which had no lifeguards along the coastline near Waipū, which is especially popular with crabbers.
As the number of those involved in the rescue swelled, some lifeguards were sent back to Waipū Cove, where they rescued two swimmers who got into trouble in the glassy water and rips there.
BETWEEN THE FLAGS: An NZME summer campaign
READ MORE: Lifeguard rescues two young girls from heavy surf
READ MORE: It costs a young lifeguard $50 every time she does a weekend patrol
READ MORE: We take a look at how much essential life saving gear really costs
READ MORE: How many lives did lifeguards save at your beach last year? Visit our interactive to find out.
Nearly two hours after the emergency was reported, the Northland Rescue chopper spotted the crab fisherman in the surf zone, not far from the crab pots.
As lifeguards were sent his way, the helicopter lost sight of the fisherman, only to spot him once again and send IRBs his way.
The fisherman's body was pulled from the water by the lifeguards.
Although the outcome was tragic, Short said, the rescue was a very professional and planned response from all surf lifeguards involved.
"Because of these lifeguards, the deceased patient was able to be returned to his family on Christmas Day and because of the efforts from the lifeguards who stayed to maintain patrol, two lives were also saved.
"The surf lifeguards that responded all worked together as one large team despite their different roles on the day. They represented Surf Life Saving NZ at a very high level in this critical multi-agency incident," Short said.
Their efforts won the Ruakaka and Waipū Cove Surf Life Saving Clubs the BP Rescue of the Month for December.
The lifeguards involved each won $250 worth of BP gift vouchers for their clubs, a total prize of $500.
BP NZ managing director Debi Boffa said the outcome of the search was tragic and her thoughts were with the crab fisherman's family and the surf lifeguards involved.
"We know that IRBs are important to surf clubs all over the country and this is another example of why that's the case," she said.
"We would like to acknowledge and recognise the tenacity and incredible commitment of the lifeguards who were involved.
"We're incredibly proud to have supported surf life saving for 52 years, and to have the opportunity to recognise the outstanding skills shown in this incident."