Seth McPhee - Otago Daily Times

Seth McPhee - Otago Daily TimesSeth McPhee in action off Brighton beach.

Roaring through the surf in an inflatable rescue boat is the "ultimate challenge" for Brighton man Seth McPhee, who has been honoured with the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Volunteer of the Year award.

Mr McPhee, who is involved in surf life-saving at club, provincial and national levels, was presented with the award at the DHL "In It For Life Awards" in Wellington yesterday.

"I'm very surprised, mainly because you don't volunteer with the aim of gaining recognition for yourself, rather to do something for the community," the 23-year-old said.

"And it's something I love, so I don't mind doing it.""It" is spending more than 30 hours a week either guarding, teaching, fundraising or helping organise competitions, people or equipment.

He was Otago surf life-saving's lifeguard of the year last year and its volunteer of the year this year.
As well giving his time to surf life-saving, he also assists Land Search and Rescue with transport assistance and is a member of Marine Search and Rescue.

Surf Life Saving chief executive Geoff Barry said the awards were in recognition of the time and effort members dedicated to making beaches a safer place.

"We are a volunteer organisation and without the sheer dedication of our members we wouldn't be able to deliver the essential service we do."The volunteer award was based on the contribution a person made across the whole of surf life-saving, Mr Barry said.

"When you look through Seth's CV, you wonder `How does he have a life?' - he's doing so much for surf life-saving."It was uncommon for a young person, with "so many other distractions", to spend so much time in voluntary work, and the award recognised that, he said.

Mr McPhee, who is in the final year of a physical education degree, has been around surf life-saving since he was "knee high", having grown up in Brighton.

"I've been brought up with it. I get more enjoyment out of surf life-saving and spending time at the beach [than anything else]."

His passion was the work done from inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) and he also trained new crews in their use.
Teamwork made the difference in life-saving or rescue work, he said.

"It's the ultimate challenge of man versus nature. If you get it wrong, you are brought down to earth quickly."
He had benefited from the work, gaining important life skills, Mr McPhee said.

"It is one sport which sets you up with skills for life - that is why people should get into it."

Dunedin man Peter Gibbons, of the St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club, was awarded a life membership at the national awards yesterday.
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