Surf Sports

Welcome to Senior Surf at United North Piha Lifeguard Service

Participate as an athlete regardless of age, to participate in Surf Events you must be a registered member of a club within the Northern Region, and a member of SLSNZ

To be eligible to compete at Surf Sports event you must be 14 years or older and hold a current/refreshed Surf Lifeguard Award

Once you have met the above conditions you will be able to compete in a fun, challenging and exciting environment in a number of components including ski, board, tube rescue, surf swim, canoe, boat, board riding and Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB). These events are all geared towards creating fitter and stronger lifeguards who understand the surf in all conditions and environments

Beach Events 

Sprints Relay Beach Flags

Sprint races are one of the most intense and fiercely competitive events within Surf Sports. Senior competitors race over a distance of 90 metres (Junior and Masters competitors race over 70 metres) in soft or hard sand (depending on beach conditions).

Teams of four runners make up a relay team and contest an event where inter club rivalry is intense. The relay race is run in shuttle fashion over the same course as the beach sprint with team members using a baton.

Beach Flags is an aggressive knockout event that sparks great rivalry. Competitors, who lie face down on the sand prior to the starter's whistle, sprint 15 metres before diving for a flag (rubber baton) located in the sand. One competitor drops out each round (where there is one less flag than the number of competitors) until only one person remains.

All senior and master competitors are invited to join the following training sessions for the beach area.

The training program offers a balanced approach aimed at developing speed and agility, working towards a successful campaign at the State and Australian Championships. While the focus is performing on the beach, the importance of developing speed is addressed through training sessions off the sand.

Surf Swim Events

This event combines swimming prowess and fitness with surf skills such as wading, dolphin diving and catching broken waves. Males and female lifesavers contest this event in individual and team categories with up to 50 competitors in each event. Competitors start on the beach, sprint into the surf, negotiate the break, swim an approximate 400m course around a set of buoys and then back to shore using the surf, then sprint across the finish line which is located about 20m up the beach.

Swimming events include: surf swim, surf teams, belt swim, rescue tube sprint, rescue tube rescue (patient and swimmer), board rescue (2 competitors involved in swim and board paddle), taplin (6 competitors involved in swim, board, and ski).

Board Paddling

From a beach start, competitors paddle a 3.5m fibreglass board (similar to a surfboard) through the break, around three buoys and back to shore over a 550m to 700m course. To finish, the competitor must drag/carry their board across a finish line about 10m up the beach.

Board paddling events include: board, board rescue (involving a swimmer and board paddler), board relay (3 different competitors) and taplin (6 competitors in swim, board and ski).

Surf Ski Paddling

Fibreglass surf skis (similar to kayaks used at the Olympics) are the fastest human powered craft in surf life saving. Each ski race begins on the water's edge with the paddlers heading out to sea where they circumnavigate three buoys and race back to the water's edge. Surf ski events are mentally and physically gruelling with race distances vary from about 700 to 750 metres in length depending on surf conditions. The ski is one of the toughest craft to use in the surf, and is now one of the most popular events in surf life saving.

Surf ski events include: the single ski, double ski (2 competitors on same craft), mixed double ski (male/female on same craft), the ski relay (3 competitors on individual craft), and taplin (6 competitors involved in swim, board and ski).

Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB)

The Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) is the fastest and most maneuverable piece of rescue equipment used by surf lifesavers. The IRB is manned by 2 persons at the from (crew) and rear (driver) of the craft. The basic procedure for IRB racing is for crews and their IRBs to start from near the shore, proceed out to the turning buoys, retrieve the patients on the seaward side of the buoys and then return to shore. The main aim of IRB racing is to improve the skills and abilities of IRB drivers and members required for successful rescue operations.

IRB Competition Events

There are a number of different races within the carnival and they are :

  • Rescue : The driver and crew race out to a buoy and pick up the patient, then return to shore.
  • Mass Rescue : A driver and crew race out to a buoy and pick up either one or two of the three patients, then return to shore. When they reach the shore the driver then runs up the beach around a flag and returns to the IRB where they will again race out to the bouy with the crew and pick up the final patient/s, then return to shore.
  • Rescue Tube : A driver and crew race out to a buoy where the crew jumps into the water with a rescue tube. The crew swims 25 metres to a patient, attaches the rescue tube to the patient, then swims back with the patient to the IRB where they enter the IRB and return to shore.


IRB Crew Award

To participate in the IRB Drivers Award, the IRB Crew Award must first be attained. This Award generally takes only a few training sessions to be met. The Award allows you to 'crew the boat (ie sit at the front of the boat as a non-driver)

IRB Driver Awards

Once the IRB Crew Award is achieved you can attend the IRB Drivers training course. The course will take a few weeks and participants will be required to manoeuvre craft through waves (this is generally achieved on the West coast).

Training Schedule



Time of Session

Equipment required



Every Tues

7pm - 8pm

Togs, towel, goggles and fins

West Wave


  • Board, Ski
  • Ocean swimming
  • Canoe

Mon &


6pm - 7.30pm

Togs, Towel & drink bottle

Takapuna - meet at the boat ramp

Inflatable Rescue Boats



Togs, towel, Wetsuit & warm clothes