AUT Research Highlights Heroic Surfers

08 Jun, 2023
AUT Research Highlights Heroic Surfers
Stock Photo: Shutterstock/Jodie Johnson

AUT research has found that surfers are one of our beaches’ most effective lifesaving services, saving an average of 48 lives each year. 400 surfers from across New Zealand were interviewed for the study.

Collectively they had rescued a total 1,274 people, on average three people per surfer each year.

Researcher Jamie Mead said many of those bystander rescues took place at unpatrolled locations or outside of official patrol times.

"Surfers are unofficial rescuers and they're not reporting any of the rescues they're doing."

This meant that until this research, evidence of rescues wasn’t generally recorded, and exact numbers were difficult to measure.

"It places them as the most unrecognised but valuable drowning prevention service that we have out there, when you consider that surfers are surfing from dawn till dusk, they're surfing on beaches across the country and 85 percent of the time they're conducting rescues that are either outside of lifeguard areas or outside of patrolled times."

Jamie also said that it wasn’t practical or economical for lifeguards to be everywhere all the time, meaning that surfers are often filling the gap essential services are currently struggling with.

"It's so unrecognised that I wouldn't expect that they've got the support that is needed. That's what I hope this research can shed some light on, and send some more support their way."

The research has already lead to an initiative offering classes to help surfers with learning basic lifesaving skills.

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