Omanu lifeguard Haven Bellamy has achieved the highest award for lifeguarding in New Zealand.
The 25-year-old gained his Advanced Lifeguard Award while attending Surf Life Saving New Zealand's National Lifeguard School in Taranaki last weekend. Of the 19 lifeguards who took part, Haven gained the top candidate award for the school.
He was presented with a plaque on behalf of the 21 Club from Todd Velvin and a rescue tube by Surf Life Saving New Zealand president Brian Velvin.
Haven says he found the course really pushed him out of his comfort zone - not just physically, but mentally as well.
“I really enjoyed being at a different beach with people I had never met or worked with before,” says Haven. “It was a great networking experience and I truly have made friends for life.
“We constantly shared stories and experiences which was really eye opening as we all come from different backgrounds.”
He says highlights included advanced Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) training, learning to navigate in a different environment and rescue helicopter work.
Earning the honour of top candidate means a lot not just to him, but his club too.
“I am honoured to receive this award and it will inspire the next generation of lifeguards from my club who follow on behind me,” he says.
“I'm very proud of my achievement and I will definitely not be stopping here.”
This year, eight of the 19 candidates came from Surf Life Saving's Eastern Region.
Throughout the weekend they were tested on a number of tasks from advanced IRB training, rock swimming, helicopter jumps, search and rescue and patrol scenarios.
“All lifeguards have to be at a really high level just to be selected,” says Surf Life Saving New Zealand member development manager Belinda Slement, “so topping the list is an outstanding achievement.”