Our HistoryThe Wainui Surf and Life-saving Club, the first in the district dedicated to surf lifesaving, was formed in June 1937 to preserve and safeguard life.

751 37 Wainui SurfClub 1939Members operated from a boatshed-cum-clubhouse, centrally positioned at Okitu on the northern side of the Hamanatua Stream.

Within a few months, Wainui took possession of an Australian-designed, cedar surf lifeboat, the first to operate in the Gisborne region and the third to operate in New Zealand waters. In April 1939, Wainui and Piha crews were the first in New Zealand to hold surf boat races, club members competing against each other in surf ski races and lifesaving.

In 1938, the club re-erected part of an old store among the sand dunes, and bought a lookout tower from the local fire brigade.

The club withdrew from competition during World War 2 but became active again from 1945. New buildings and surfskis attracted a strong group of town-dwelling, high school boys who began training, gained qualifications – including the district’s first surf medallions [the equivalent of today’s bronze medallions] – and began competing. The club went into recess in 1951 but reformed in 1954.

Wainui gained a new wooden and fibreglass surf boat in 1961, the first such boat put into service in the district, but within a few years came close to going into recess again. The Gisborne Association stepped into train new members and coach Tom Harris helped the club gain momentum with an enthusiastic young group making it into the finals of the 1969 Nationals held in Gisborne.

Wainui gained its first national title in 1973 when Dave Jenkins won the Junior Surfski Rescue at Oakura. The opening of a new clubhouse in 1974 coincided with a boom period and several more national titles. The 1980s was marked by Wainui’s purchase of Gisborne’s first inflatable rescue boat, a record 42 people gaining bronze awards in one season, a new clubhouse, storage facilities in town and growing strength in IRB and canoe events.

Another successful squad came up through the ranks in the 1990s with Dion and Daniel Williams making New Zealand lifesaving squads and IRB star Justin Martin joining the New Zealand team, the Southern Mako. In the 2010s, Wainui had five members in the New Zealand squad – Jasmine Smith, Oliver Puddick, Ben Quilter, Laura Quilter and Toby Harris. The clubhouse was extended further in about mid-2006.

Wainui emerged in the 2000s as a thriving, family-oriented club with more than 200 members involved in Nippers, Ocean Athletes, national rep teams and patrols.  As at 2021, we now have 460 active members. 

Gallery Images

  • 1938 39 training
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  • two with boards c1945