Six lifeguards set a New Zealand record circumnavigating the country in Inflatable Rescue Boats, and performed a rescue along the way.
The team, which includes leader Ash Matuschka of Waimauku and fellow Muriwai Beach lifeguard Andrew Lancaster, finished at Auckland Viaduct yesterday afternoon after travelling 5200km in 34 days.
They were joined by Auckland-based Jason Harvey, Blake Ingram, Matt Buswell, and Antony Morgan of Papamoa.
"It was an awesome way to celebrate 100 years of surf life saving," Ash says.
"On Sunday, we happened to be on a remote beach on the East Coast that we weren't even planning to stop at when a young guy ran up to us saying his girlfriend was stuck in a rip," he says. "He couldn't help her and his dad tried and got into a bit of trouble himself."
Two lifeguards went to her rescue.
"By the time we picked her up she was breathing some of her last breaths," Ash says. "If we hadn't been there she wouldn't have survived. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time.
"Even just being a part of that made the entire trip worth it."
The team left the Auckland Viaduct on January 5, expecting the 32-leg trip would take 40 days. A motorhome and support crew followed.
It averaged eight-hour days at sea but the longest day stretched to 14-and-a-half.
"There were times where we were exhausted," Ash says. "Thankfully there were no serious injuries. We just felt strained being out on the water for so long.
"At times boredom started to set in, so we sang and seemed to manage it."
Ash says a memorable moment was being met by hundreds of dolphins while coming into Fiordland.
"I've never seen that many in my life. It was like they were saying: `Welcome to Fiordland'."
Another highlight was pulling into a small cove on Stewart Island for lunch. "It was a beautiful place and we enjoyed lunch with a sea lion. It was so remote."
Hospitality from surf clubs around the country blew them away.
Ash is looking forward to his own bed after sleeping in different beds for more than a month.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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