Our coast is fortunate to have hundreds of Surf Life Saving volunteers - and the organisation's prestigious leadership development programme, BP Leaders for Life, features three special young people.

Chosen to upskill over 10 months, the trio from Pauanui and Waihi Beach SLS clubs were among 15 chosen from around the country. Waihi Leader and Coastal News had a Q&A with them.

Thomas Brown
Pauanui SLSC

Brown says the biggest challenge that he sees in SLS is retaining older volunteer guards.

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"Volunteering has made me realise how important people giving back to the community is and given me a positive, trusted relationship in the community volunteering for an important, respected charity. SLS has led me to meet and form friendships with epic people from all parts of NZ.

What are the qualities of a good leader?
A good leader listens, respects and helps to improve others while pushing them with their weaknesses and comfort zones, but always gets involved in all parts of the job at all levels.

Describe an SLS team
A team environment gives you a sense of purpose and a place to belong to. The surf lifesaving team environment is my second family and I enjoy the friendships, adventures and company long after the flags come off the beach.

What do you love about your local beach?
My favourite thing at Pauanui Beach is how it can be pumping at south end for the surfers but also dead calm in the estuary for a water ski.

For anyone considering joining their local SLS club, what would you say?
Just do it, its the best thing I've ever done. The skills, friendships and satisfaction you will get out of it are like [nothing else] and something I will cherish for life. Some of my best mates are ones I met through SLS and the skills I've learned are so valuable and transferable to many aspects of life.

Any other thoughts?
I would like to add how awesome of a charity [Surf Life Saving] is. The people you meet and opportunities you get are amazing. Get down to your local beach, say hi to the lifeguards and get involved. Clubs will be opening their lifeguard training programmes before summer, you won't regret it!

Maddie Scown
Waihi Beach SLS

Maddie's biggest challenge so far with Surf Lifesaving, she says, is trying to make time for all the opportunies on offer.

How has your volunteering affected your relationships in the community?
I've been given a unique opportunity to be useful and "there" for the people in my community, whether that be by helping them when they are experiencing something potentially scary, or just by watching the water. This service of all the lifeguards has strengthened all relationships in the community and in turn has meant that the Waihi Beach community looks after the Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service just as well as we look after them. Working with the local ambos and fire service means we are always learning something new.

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What do you think makes a good leader?
A good leader is someone who takes time to set up opportunities for others to push themselves and succeed, providing them with the necessary encouragement and guidance. If you can walk away from a situation knowing that you've helped someone else upskill, develop or grow in any way, I think you've done a pretty good job at being a leader.

What do you enjoy about being part of a team?
The best part about being in a team is the results that can be achieved when you pool together so many different life experiences, skills and strengths. I love that you are all in it together, no matter the outcome.

What do you love most about Waihi Beach?
Easy. Waihi Beach is the best beach in the world, just ask anyone from Waihi Beach. You can't beat the swell at Waihi Beach on a good day, and the community that lives there are pretty awesome too.

What would you say to anyone considering getting involved in SLS?
Do it. Quite honestly the best thing you'll ever do. The Clubbie family is so big, there are so many amazing pathways and opportunities awaiting you.

Caity Alison
Pauanui SLSC

Alison says she was "delighted" for an opportunity to join a programme previously attended by most of the people she looks up to in the SLS organisation.

What do you see as your biggest single challenge to date with surf lifesaving?
Most likely my confidence in myself. In the past it had stopped me applying for courses or taking part in extra training. Through surf, though, I have found countless people who have encouraged me to aim higher and I have been able to enjoy much more of what Surf
Lifesaving has to offer, through IRB racing competitions, at a board level within my club and as a paid regional lifeguard.

What makes a good leader?
A good leader can muck in with the team, but is also capable of taking charge and staying calm in a high pressure situation. Being a role model within the group and wider community also.

What do you enjoy about being part of a team?
The surf environment is intense and the friendship and bonds formed are unlike any I have found in other extracurricular activities. When we all work together to achieve a common goal there is a greater sense of satisfaction from a job well done and also getting to know the team better.

What's your favourite thing about your local beach?
I really enjoy rock rescue training after hours at the local spots on either end of the beach. This is a challenging environment, but the training ensures that our team can be ready if a rescue were to occur in those areas.

Advice for those thinking of joining SLS?
Anyone who is looking to get involved in Surf Lifesaving should not hesitate. My time in SLS has been the most rewarding activity in terms of personal development and friendship, and it feels really awesome being able to do something meaningful during the summer by looking after the beachgoing community as a volunteer and later as a paid regional lifeguard.