It started in 1929 with a few young adventurers, some wooden planks and a surf reel and line rescue.... for nearly 90 years the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service has been a loyal part of the Tauranga community.
Initially, as the Mount Maunganui members of the Royal Life Saving Service, the association of volunteers patrolled the ocean beaches over the peak holiday periods. They operated from a prefab hut, appropriated from the east coast railway, close to the site that the Lifeguard Service occupies today. When a veranda was added to the hut, it became the control centre for rescue patrols and adventures in early wooden surfboard building.
A pivotal moment came when the fishing launch 'Ranui' went down in the harbour entrance on December 28 1950, with 22 lives lost. It created the momentum to expand the surf lifesaving service. The dedication of club members in assisting in the grim task of body recovery was international news, helping cemented the partnership between the club and the professional civic services of the Tauranga City.
The first Mount Surf Club, in the late 1930s. Image: Auckland Weekly News/Tauranga Historical Society.
The call for a larger rescue base was generously replied to by local businesses, the public and hammer-wielding volunteers. The basic form, for what is the present building, was erected to provide a home for the service as it matured into the organisation it is today.
When the surfing craze dawned, club members were called upon to perform an ever-widening range of actions. The lifeguards rescued many ‘surfies’ from rips along the coast and many surfers became respected and long serving active members of the Service.
In 2004, the club celebrated its 75th Jubilee, while notable events in recent years include the response to the Rena oil spill in 2011 and the three-week search for 5-year-old Jack Dixon, tragically washed off rocks near the base of Mauao in 2014.
While ultimately unsuccessful, the search for Jack shone the light on the lengths local clubbies go to, with a massive community outpouring of support.
Notable achievements through our history
- The first fully operational dedicated beach patrol vehicle;
- The implementation of an year-round, 24-hour rescue call-out squad;
- The implementation of a patrolling rescue boat;
- The first club to install a 'can buoy' rescue system along the beach;
- The first club to establish a rescue radio network.