Answering Omaha's annual call

18:47, Feb 26 2014
Sir Richard HAdlee
ON PATROL: While beach patrol isn’t as full on as shown on television there’s still plenty of action for lifeguards.

Gearing up for a day watching swimmers at Omaha beach is second nature to Matt Nugent.

Even though he's only 17, he's been doing it for years.

Like many of the Omaha lifeguards he's not a local.

Matt lives in Parnell but his family has had a bach in the area for years and the north has become a second home as he remembers spending many long summer holidays at Buckleton's Beach, then Omaha and Pt Wells.

At 11 he joined the Nipper programme at the Omaha Surf Life Saving Club and has been coming back ever since, qualifying as a lifeguard at 14.

Matt admits to being a bit of a thrill seeker and it is the competition sport he enjoys most.


Also keen on go-kart racing, he regularly competes in racing events at Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua. This can see a conflict at times between racing and patrolling.

With inflatable rescue boat racing getting under way for him next season, life at the club promises to ramp up a notch.

This year has seen him head off as a paid lifeguard with a week each spent on west coast beach Kariotahi near Waiuku, and Muriwai Beach, as well as at east coast beaches Wenderholm and Omaha.

Unlike reality television shows, most days patrolling don't involve life and death situations and Matt says he's not been involved in any serious rescues.

Towing kayakers who have ventured too far out and patching up a woman who fell off the back of a ute, cutting her head, have been the most serious things he's had to deal with.

But life at the beach is far from boring, he says.

The camaraderie in the surf club and the friendships he's made have been a big part of his life. There have been leadership courses, and practical courses like first-aid will come in handy outside the club.

Next year Matt hopes to go to Canterbury University to do a degree in mechanical engineering. The adventure of living away from home, in a different part of the country, is also part of the appeal.

But the north still has a hold on Matt who reckons he'll be returning to Omaha each summer.

The patrol season ends at Easter, April 18-21.

Rodney Times