The Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and the Waihī Beach Lifeguard Services Inc will be representing the Western Bay when they compete at this weekend's BP North Island IRB Championships.

They will be part of the 58 IRB rescue boat crews from 17 Surf Life Saving New Zealand clubs throughout the North Island racing in the champs at Waihī Beach on Saturday and Sunday.

Event manager Scott Bicknell says Surf Life Saving NZ IRB drivers are well known for their skill with IRB racing, expecting the champs to showcase technical abilities as well as plenty of "fast paced racing" and "very fast turns".

"They're getting in there fast to pick up people, or multiple patients, and you have races where a crew member will jump into the water to support a patient, events where they assemble the IRB on the beach then race, and relays," Bicknell says.


In November the New Zealand team, from Sunset Beach in Port Waikato, won the inaugural IRB world championships in Australia, and some of those athletes will be racing in this competition, Bicknell says.

A big swell is forecast for Waihī Beach, so the racing may be tough, with big waves adding another exciting element to the mix.

"It's going to get a little bit gnarly trying to navigate the surf.

"That's near the upper limits of what we'd reach in racing. That's challenging conditions, but they're certainly capable."

IRB racing replicates the skills needed in real life rescues, and the athletes taking part are all active surf lifeguards, who patrol for their clubs, ready to save lives.

IRBs are used in about 80 per cent of rescues. Their use - both in training and extreme rescue conditions - led to the development of the sports circuit, where lifeguards hone their skills.

This weekend's BP North Island IRB Championships are the first IRB event for the year. The BP South Island IRB Championships are scheduled for March 16, followed by the National IRB Championships on April 6-7, with both events held in Dunedin.

Bicknell says IRB racing is one of the most exciting lifesaving sports to watch, and the Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services clubrooms have a cafe and bar, and there will be a commentator.

"Come on down, it'll be a spectacular show."

- Supplied content
BP North Island IRB Championships competitors:
Bethells Beach SLSP: 8
East End SLSC: 16
Kariaotahi SLSC: 22
Mairangi Bay SLSC: 22
Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service: 4
Paekakariki Surf Lifeguards: 4
Pauanui SLSC: 17
Piha SLSC: 16
Red Beach SLSC: 4
Sunset Beach LS: 53
United North Piha Lifeguard Service: 17
Waihi Beach Lifeguard Services Inc: 22
Waikanae SLSC: 12
Waimarama SLSC: 9
Waipu Cove SLSC: 9
Westshore SLSC: 9
Whangamata SLSC: 4
Total: 248 athletes