Surf Lifesaving New Zealand says lifeguards have saved 50,000 people from drowning over the past 100 years.
2011 is Surf Lifesaving's centenary year. To mark the milestone six lifeguards are making a 40-day circumnavigation of New Zealand in an inflatable rescue boat.
The journey is broken into 32 stages and will take just over a month.
The first legs are to Mangawhai in Northland and then Ocean Beach at Whangarei Heads.
Surf Lifesaving NZ says there have been some big changes to lifesaving equipment and techniques over the past century, from the rope and reel method to inflatable boats.
But its dependence on fit, active, skilled people willing to give up their time to keep others safe, remains the same.
Surf Lifesaving NZ estimates about a quarter of a million lifeguards have served over that time.
About 4000 lifeguards are on New Zealand beaches this summer.