Waitarere lifeguard named New Zealand lifeguard of the year
A Waitarere man who can't get enough of the beach in his hometown has been named lifeguard of the year.
Nathan Berry, 27, was named lifeguard of the year at the Surf Life Saving New Zealand awards in Auckland on Saturday.
Berry has been a lifeguard at Waitarere Beach for 12 years.
In June, Berry won regional lifeguard of the year and although he thought there were others more worthy of holding the national title, he was proud to receive the award.
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Berry was encouraged by a friend to take up surf lifesaving at 18 years old and has donned the uniform at the beach every summer since, working his way up from trainee to club captain.
Despite heading to Christchurch to study for four years, Berry returned to his Horowhenua roots, where he now works as an electrical engineer.
Helping people during their toughest times and seeing them bounce back is what kept him motivated, he said.
Berry said one incident that resonated with him was when he was 18 and a girl was swept out to sea.
"I remember the terror in this girl's face."
Although she was frightened after the ordeal, he was amazed when she came back two weeks later and braved the water once again.
Berry also gained confidence by becoming a lifeguard - going from a shy teenager to someone who could talk to anyone, he said.
"It's shaped who I am immensly."
Berry encouraged anyone who wanted to become a lifeguard to give it a go, saying it taught him life skills, such as confidence, and it was a way to help others in their most vulnerable moments.
In a statement, a spokeswoman from Surf Life Saving New Zealand said the award was the pinnacle of surf lifesaving and highlighted the skill, experience and dedication of people who gave up their time to make beaches safer.
Three Palmerston North club members Ian Ferguson, Colin Luke and Kevin Shute were also recognised for 50 years service to surf lifesaving.