I read somewhere once that, “success is firstly finding your happy place and secondly, getting paid to go there…”
I don’t think there’s a better quote to sum up my life as a professional beach lifeguard.
As a former elite triathlete and adventure racer, I’ve always lived for adventures and led an endurance based lifestyle. Lifeguard life is no different.
The term “rescue ready” refers not only to your mental state and physical strength but also to a unique skill set only acquired after a countless hours on the beach and in the water.
Just like firefighters and marines are famed for being able to use the gym while at work, Lifeguards are routinely training as part of there daily duties. Surf swims, beach runs and stretching sessions are standard practice most mornings.
Once a week or more there’s the renowned ‘ozzy challenge’! A Lifeguarding triathlon of sorts. Either done in a pair or against the clock, this swim, board paddle and soft sand run combination is the making of many Lifeguards and the perfect set up for those days where you are making multiple rescues in the water and running to incidents on the beach-(often carrying 20kg of first aid/life support equipment on your back).
“Last summer, on a freak day of large crowds and strong conditions, Lifeguards at Devon’s, Croyde bay rescued 29 people from rips during 90minute change in the tide…”
I’m a firm believer in preparing to work and perform outside of your comfort zone.
As an athlete choosing to do my longest and hardest sessions alone with no technological distractions.
Often as a lifeguard the adrenaline is rushing and the right choice has the potential of a life or death situation, control is key.
Following our SAPER acronym in all situations becomes second nature.(Stop,Assess,Plan,Execute, then Review)
Wether speeding up on a jet ski to assist a distressed kitesurfer or searching for a lost child in a crowd of several thousand, this skill is essential.
For many people, I’m sure Lifeguarding looks like an easy gig.
‘Sat up on the tower, wearing shades and watching the girls go by….’
But it couldn’t be further from the true, Lifeguards are tested monthly against the clock both in the water and on foot across the sand, with failure resulting in time off the beach until fitness is back up to the required standard. As well as this we are trained and continually assessed to the highest standards in first aid and life support. Rescue and recovery techniques for swim, board and jet ski are another large part of our continued training and assessment.
As I said before it’s a lifestyle:
My days often begin by getting out on or under the water, usually with other guards, for a recreational surf or free dive. After breakfast I leave home and cycle to whichever tower I’m assigned to that day. Myself and the other guards will asses the beach and water, then set up the swim zones and signage accordingly.
Once service begins (10am), between us we will constantly have visuals on the swim zone and surroundings, be patrolling the extended area and responding and dealing with incidents throughout the day until we finish at 6pm (often later)
Training takes place between your designated ‘watcher’ and patrol times. Lunch’s are kept light and healthy, with water and snacks constant throughout the day to help maintain focus and readiness.
Lifeguards are made up of lots of different quality’s and skills as I said before. Just looking at my own team in, our guards come from a variety of sporting backgrounds- triathletes, an ex Olympic kayaker and lots of surfers and swimmers. At 43 I’m not youngest on the team but I’m certainly not planning on retiring anytime soon.
Follow Tim @maccabythesea for his adventures