Sea-Change: Young Lifesavers Participate In Exchange Program

They say change is as good as a holiday, and City and Country clubbies certainly got that as they participated in the annual Life Saving Exchange Program.

Last Friday 23 January, a group of city lifesavers headed north to spend three days at Byron Bay and Ballina beaches, while a group of country clubbies got to experience life patrolling a busy Bondi Beach.

The annual program aims to encourage lifesavers to develop their skills at unfamiliar beaches, foster cooperation between clubs, and continue the education of the next generation of lifesavers.

Participants in the program were aged between 18-30 and came from a diverse range of surf life saving backgrounds. During their time away apart from their patrol duties they also spent time learning about other lifesaving assets including visiting the various rescue helicopter and jet boat bases.

Country clubbies Sarah Elliot (Newcastle SLSC) and Joe Halsey (Narooma) both were delighted with the educational experience they got throughout the weekend.

“The exposure to various beaches, blackspot locations and other rescue operators has been priceless,” Sarah Elliot said.

“The experience has been great and will definitely inform my role as a trainer of future bronze squads. My highlights were seeing the Westpac Lifesaving Helicopter, the rescue boat and spending time patrolling.”

“It’s been really good to meet lots of different people from other clubs and to see and talk about how other clubs operate their patrols when dealing with larger crowds,” Joe Halsey added.

“I also discussed patrolling techniques with other club members, which I found to be a useful experience.”

For city clubbie Aimee Clarke (South Narrabeen SLSC), the opportunity to head north was an experience she won’t quickly forget.

“We got to meet a great bunch of lifesavers, patrolled beaches with different conditions to our own and learnt about how the rescue helicopter and jet boat operate to support surf life saving efforts. A camp highlight was definitely visiting the Ballina Jet Boat,” Ms Clarke said.

“It was great see the crew and boat in action and hear the radio calls around a potential missing person. It's given me a much greater understanding of how all the surf life saving resources work together.”

Larger crowds were certainly something both groups had to deal with. At Bondi there was an estimated 15 000 people at the beach on Sunday, while at Byron Bay there were at least 3000 holidaymakers and locals alike taking full advantage of the sunshine.

All three clubbies (and the rest of the group) thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and can’t wait to put their lessons into practice at their home beaches.

They also strongly encourage other lifesavers to become involved in the program if given the opportunity.

“Definitely I would say get involved; exposure and experiences are the best ways to learn and grow as a lifesaver,” Ms Elliott said.

“I would highly recommend this program to other lifesavers. I'd tell them it's a great way to meet new people, see how other clubs operate and a great way to learn about a complete emergency response,” Ms Clarke added.

Two participants from the program will now be selected to travel to New Zealand in March where they will attend a lifesaving exchange with their international counterparts.

Photograph: A group of lifesavers from the city clubs take time out to smile for the cameras while on a tour of the Lismore Helicopter Base. Photo courtesy of SLSNSW

Wed 28 Jan 2015