Father and son duo win surf lifesaving awards

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James Newell says he's proud of the work put into creating generations of lifeguards in Whanganui.

He and son Matthew snapped up accolades for their dedication to surf lifesaving at the Taranaki Awards of Excellence on Saturday night.

James and Matthew Newell (ex WHS student) were both presented awards for their lifesaving services in the central region, with James awarded a regional Service Award, Distinguished Service Award and regional Life Membership Award.

Matthew claimed the James Hunt Memorial Cup for Taranaki Volunteer of the Year for his contributions.

The Surf Life Saving central region spans from the Taranaki, across to Hawke's Bay and down to Wellington.

James originally starting with the Mowhanau Surf Lifesaving Club in 1978.

In 1989, the Mowhanau club merged with the Castlecliff Lifesaving Club and he has been president and other various roles with the club over the years.

"In 1989 we became the Whanganui Surf Lifeguard Service and we have the been two clubs since," James said.

James said the volunteer award for Matthew was "a big thing for such a young guy".

"He stood out in the whole region as the one that has put the most effort in."

Matthew said it came as a surprise.

"It's awesome to recognised, but that's not what we do it for," Matthew said.

A builder by trade, Matthew built the lifeguard watchtower at Kai Iwi Beach and recognises that as one of his favourite accomplishments over the years.

"I did the plans, got the sponsorships and built it myself with the help of volunteers. That has been a big achievement for the club," he said.

"This year we have also had the two Can-Am rescue vehicles that have been a massive asset for us on the beach."

Surf lifesaving isn't for everyone and it's is a way of life, James said.

"It's a commitment to the community and it takes up alot of time. I'm just putting time back into our community which is what it is all about. There are alot of other volunteers out there that just do just as good as things with other organisations, mine just happens to be surf lifesaving."

Asked about what stands out over his 40-plus years in surf lifesaving, James is proud of the culture and work they put into the next generation of guards.

"We have brought a lot of young people through surf lifesaving over the last 40 years in terms of training. It gives them a good start in life."

James said he gets "countless" phone calls from people wanting references for jobs and that many people have been employed due to their surf lifesaving ties.

"A good reference from a surf lifesaving club is a good reference for jobs. It always goes down well. It's a well thought of organisation," he said.

"They are go-ahead people that are committed and put in effort."

James said they are always looking for volunteers and are looking to train people up in the coming weeks for the upcoming season.

"The season really starts in December. But you don't become a guard overnight. You have to be able to swim under 400m in nine minutes. You need time to do that."

"You have to be a minimum of 14 years of age and just a fit, confident person and we teach you everything you need to know."

Those interested in becoming guards can get in touch with the club via email at whanganuilifeguards@gmail.com or contact them through Facebook.

Logan Tutty
Whanganui Chronicle 20/7/20

(*) Last Reviewed: July 21, 2020

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