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Junior Surf


Junior Surf Programme Overview


Junior Surf promotes surf lifesaving through teaching junior members about surf awareness, safety, skills, lifeguarding and competition, while having fun and enjoying the beach.

Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club runs a great Junior Surf Programme for 4 to 13-year-olds, creating a wonderful communal and enjoyable atmosphere on the beach, leading to lasting friendships with fellow sand-crabs, nippers and rookies. The main aim is for children to have gain confidence while having fun, whether this is through participating in training and club activities, or challenging themselves by competing at events.

The Junior Surf Programme at Opotiki has two focuses:

  • Education: Teaching kids how they can keep themselves, their friends and family safe at the beach

  • Sport: Allowing them to take up surf lifesaving as a competitive sport.

These two elements combine to give children broad and balanced skill levels on both the beach and in the sea, as well as the flexibility to enjoy surf lifesaving as a fun beach activity or to participate at the highest levels.

Over time, youngsters develop lifesaving skills such as beach running, catching waves, rescuing patients and board paddling.

As very much a family activity, surf lifesaving relies on parents being involved at the junior level. Many parents decide to become coaches, be part of the committee, help out at training sessions, become lifeguards themselves and some even compete at Masters level. Parents of Nippers and Sandcrabs are expected to be present at their child's training sessions and to help as required, including helping the Junior Surf Coach with activities and assisting children to clean and put away gear at the end of the sessions.

What your child will learn in our Junior Programme?

Surf lifesaving has a variety of activities and most children will find something to love and get involved in, whether it's beach sprints, board paddling, swimming or first aid skills. The Junior Surf Programme at Opotiki centres on confidence and fun, at the same time developing surf lifesaving skills.

For our younger children, the program begins with water confidence activities and fun beach games. They then move on to learning how to compete in surf lifesaving competition events –boarding, tube rescues, surf swimming, beach sprints and flags. By the time they finish the Junior Surf Programme, they are well on their way to tackling their Surf Lifeguard Award and ready to become qualified surf lifeguards.


What swimming ability is required?

The environment in which our activities take place means it is important that swimming ability increases as children go up through the age groups.

Swimming Ability requirements

Children do not need to be able to swim for the first few years at surf club, but we strongly recommend swimming lessons with a qualified instructor to ensure that they get maximum enjoyment from the Junior Programme.

When children reach the Under 9 age group, they work towards getting their 200 metre badge to compete in events at surf competitions and club championships. This requires that they confidently swim 200 metres freestyle and can tread water for one minute in the sea.


Sandcrabs is all about getting children to enjoy the beach. The focus is on fun games on the sand and in the water that teach basic beach safety and confidence. They will start with diving through hoops to get their faces wet and progress to duck dives and boogey boarding. On the beach, they will play tag, participate in fun relays and obstacle courses and learn the basics of events like beach flags. They will also learn how to ask for assistance in the water and when it is safe and not safe to go for a swim.



In A Group, children can participate in non-competitive carnivals so they learn how to compete in surf lifesaving competition events, including beach sprints, flags, surf races, board races and the diamond. They also learn basic lifesaving skills like identifying rips, being sun and surf smart and the importance of swimming between the flags.

Under 8s: Water events for this age consist of wading and boogey boarding, so while they should be able to swim short distances in the ocean, they do not yet compete in swimming events.

Under 9s and 10s: These groups work towards their 200m swim badge and, once achieved, they can compete in surf swimming and board races at carnivals. They will also be allowed to train on foam knee boards in deep water. At this age children learn to duck dive, body surf and catch waves on a foam knee board.

10 Years+


In B Group, children can participate in competition carnivals, including Eastern Region Championships and Ocean's (the national surf lifesaving carnival for juniors). They compete in beach sprints, flags, surf races, board races and the diamond, as well as a range of relay events. If children have their 200m badge, they can train and compete in a wider range of surf-related competitions.

At this age they will hone their skills in the surf – swimming, duck diving, body surfing, paddling boards in and out of waves and riding boards on their knees. They also learn lifesaving and safety skills, including identifying rips, escaping rips, using rescue equipment and basic first aid.


Rookies/Trainee Lifeguards



In Rookies, children can compete in a larger range of events, including tube and board rescues at regional events. They compete and train on larger fibreglass boards and continue to develop their surf lifesaving skills, including first aid and rescuing patients in the surf.

In their final year of the Junior Surf programme (13 - 14 years old) children participate in the Rookie Programme, which prepares them to do their Lifeguard Award and become a qualified lifeguard. The programme teaches CPR and first aid, signals, how to use radios and assess beach conditions. The Rookie Programme includes opportunities to patrol as a Rookie Lifeguard and attend a Rookie Camp.



Trainees are members who are over 14 years old or will be 14 years old at the time of the Surf Lifeguard exam. Trainees will have an instructor that will teach them the skills required to pass the exam and become a qualified lifeguard.

Club Uniform

Uniforms are given out to Rookies and Trainee Lifeguards - they need to be returned at the end of the season.


Registration Day

When: Saturday the 4th of November, 2023

Where: Opotiki Surf Lifesaving Club, Waiotahe Beach


You are all encouraged to bring the kids down to the surf club and register in person. On our Open Day/Registration Day, the Junior Surf Coach and Committee members will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about the programme.

Registration fees


For the surf lifesaving season, children's ages are defined as the age they are on September 30, 2023.


4 - 7 years old



11 - 13 years old



14 + years



7 - 10 years old



13+ years old



3+ family members


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