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United North Piha Lifeguard Service drives home water safety message

Last year 90 people drowned in New Zealand, making it the deadliest year since 2011.

And United North Piha Lifeguard Service is on a mission to do something about it.

The popular junior surf programme teaches young West Aucklanders vital water safety skills in a fun environment. Junior members aged 7 to 13 enjoy a wide range of water-based activities. They learn about water survival and how to read waves and negotiate surf conditions. The aim is to enhance young people’s water confidence and help prevent unnecessary drownings. The programme also offers a pathway to formal lifeguard qualifications.

‘We aim to develop kids’ water skills at the beach, in the ocean and in the pool,’ says chairman Leif Neilson. According to Leif, the junior surf programme is essential to that mission. ‘The focus is on active movements and fundamental skills delivered through informal activities, play and games that make learning a fun experience,’ he adds.

United North Piha Lifeguard Service has a long history of promoting water safety. For over 70 years, members have patrolled the beautiful North Piha beach from Labour weekend to Easter. The service plays a crucial role in keeping the tight-knit local community and holidaymakers safe.

As with most volunteer lifeguard services, resources are always tight. However, a successful application to the Your West Support Fund has been used to buy 15 new surfboards for the junior surf programme.

The number of young people participating in the programme has steadily increased, with 67 signed up for this season alone. The new surfboards mean that even more tamariki can take part.

Leif says that surfing not only helps young people develop water safety skills, but it also enhances their mental and physical well-being. ‘The best part is kids also get to enjoy themselves and make new friends,’ he adds.

In fact, the whole family is encouraged to get involved in the junior surf programme. Safety regulations mean there are always opportunities for parents to join in. According to Leif, there are many knock-on benefits for parents and the community. ‘Mums and dads get to share the experience with their children, and the whole community benefits from a healthier population,’ says Leif.

Although the programme has already started, there is still time to get involved. Interested young people from across West Auckland are welcome to join, so get in touch for more information.