Let’s get ready for (Australian) summer!
Meet some of the lifeguards who spent last winter on duty in Sydney. Where, of course, it was their summer.
Ben le Clerq, Lifeguard:
‘On my most hectic day I was working at Whale Beach, a well-known surf spot. The rip currents were super strong; conditions were very close to being a closed beach. My colleague and I had 15 rescues between us, including two spinal injuries during the low-tide period, due to the large surf conditions.
‘Dealing with 500+ people per day while only having two lifeguards on duty has definitely improved my beach management knowledge. Luckily for us, back home we work in larger teams, which gives us more support during busy periods.’
Jamie Russ, Senior Lifeguard:
‘Witnessing the humpback whale migration in October, when they head south towards the Antarctic to feed after the breeding season, was incredible. I’d never seen a whale with my own eyes before, so to witness a mother and calf within 200m of our beach was just amazing. Not to mention the constant breaching and tail slaps!
‘I’ve met a few of the older generations of lifeguards who used to patrol Jersey’s beaches in the 80s and 90s. They came to say hello when they heard that there were some Jersey guys working here. It’s great to hear how Jersey was back in the day and compare how we do things.’
James Hibbs, Senior Lifeguard:
‘We have to close the beaches more than you’d think due to shark sightings. Once I had to take the jet ski out to search for one. There were big shadows everywhere; it definitely got the heart pumping. The noise of the ski freaks sharks out, so they bolt unless it’s a big one. Fortunately, it wasn’t! After about an hour we called off the search and reopened the beach to the public.
‘The fitness testing in Australia is a different ball game. The swim is 800m instead of 400m at home, and that’s the easy part. We then go straight into a 1,600m soft sand run, a 1,600m board paddle, and an 800m open ocean swim. Introduce 4-5-foot surf and it makes things pretty interesting. That’s why it’s called the Mission.
‘I know the lifeguards at home would smash it too. It gives you the confidence to know that when the surf is big and things are hectic, you can get the job done. It’s also good to train hard with everyone – it helps develop a good bond.
‘Lifeguarding has given us all so many amazing opportunities. It’s allowed us to travel the world and given us skills we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives. It also puts you in some crazy situations during big incidents that otherwise you'd never be exposed to; situations where you really learn a lot about yourself.’
Jake Powell, Lifeguard:
‘You take for granted the standard of swimmers in Jersey. It’s surrounded by ocean, so people are generally pretty clued up on sea safety. In Australia, you get people travelling from miles inland, with absolutely zero sea experience, getting in difficulty regularly.
‘This job caters for my lifestyle of working at home in the summer and then getting away in the winter. I’m a lucky man!’
Skills that travel – to every climate
The skills that RNLI lifeguards learn – in training and in practice – allow them to experience Australian beaches, yes, but also so much more.
RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Rob Stuteley says: ‘Our lifeguards have also gotten seasonal work in comparable industries, such as working the winter in the Alps. They’re first aid trained, and practised with four-wheel-drive vehicles, and it’s not just beach work in Australia that translates to. Through lifeguarding, our people have skills that can take them anywhere, in any season.’
Interested in becoming an RNLI lifeguard? Find out more about roles on the beach for 2019 here.