one of the key parts of surf life saving is the competitive sport which evolved from the training activities of lifesavers at Australian and New Zealand surf beaches, though most events share little with modern Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) based surf rescue techniques. The sport is still based on the volunteer clubs which perform the rescue duty, from the children in the "nippers" through to professional elite circuits that have been established for the high-profile "ironman" events. The sport is mainly still confined to Australia and New Zealand, although the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service in Canada has run the Nova Scotia Surf League competitions every summer since 2000, and competition programs exist in 5 regions of Canada. In Europe the sport is increasingly developed, with Italy, Spain and Germany particularly strong and the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland developing rapidly.
Surf life saving clubs regularly hold surf carnivals where clubs compete with each other in a range of beach- and rescue-oriented events including combined swimming and running, surf ski and surf boat races. The youth arm of the clubs is known as Nippers, and holds similar events.
The various events involve elements of surf swimming, board riding, sand running, mock rescues using rowed surf boats, and paddling special kayak-like surf skis. Some events are for individuals, but many are team events.
Individual surf lifesaving events include:
- Long boat rescue (also called surf boat rescue)
- R&R (Rescue & Resuscitation)
- March Past
- Beach events (including Beach Sprints, Beach Relays and Flags)
- Surf Ski
- First Aid Competition, Champion Lifesaver and Patrol Competition
- Board events
- IRB racing