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After impressing at the 2018 Lifesaving Exchange Program over the Australia Day Weekend, young club members Hamish Christie (Long Reef SLSC), and Lewis Warne (Cudgen Headland) were selected to represent NSW at the Annual Lifeguard Exchange in New Zealand earlier this month joining facilitators Nixy Krite and Damien Woods in a unique experience that will improve their skills and knowledge.

Following their return to Australian shores, the group reflected on their trip, the skills they learned, new friendships made, and the lessons learned that they hope to take back to their home beach.

Here is their story in their own words.

What has been your highlight of the New Zealand trip?

Lewis Warne

My highlight of the New Zealand trip had to be all the rock and cave work we did. Living in Northern NSW we don't practice any rock work so to be given the opportunity to do this in massive swell with some of the most knowledgeable lifeguards in the world was a privilege and by far the highlight of the trip. 

Hamish Christie

My favourite thing was the work that we did in the caves. I found it very mentally challenging as it pushed me way out of my comfort zone. You can really get an understanding of how people panic and get into trouble in there! It was hard to keep level headed and think that everything was going to be alright when you are literally feeling your way through a cave that is only slightly larger than you are. When I look a back on it going through the caves gave me the best sense of achievement and feeling of relief. 

I think the best part of that experience was that I was able to feel confident that even though I was completely out of my comfort zone I was able to push through it and get through the challenge of the cave. 

Nixy Krite

The cave and rock work are always a highlight on this program as we don’t get the opportunity to do much cave work in Australia and this is truly an amazing skill set to be taught and to teach.

In some of those caves you are only just able to squeeze through and have no vision, it is completely dark.The knowledge of these caves and skill set to be able to negotiate around them is vital to keeping safe and is passed down generation to generation of SLSNR lifeguards to help save lives in these mazes of caves and rock platforms. Now they are also passing this information on and training lifeguards/lifesavers around the world to be able to take this skill back to their own clubs and countries.

Damien Woods

I have always enjoyed experiencing the different challenges that other surf lifesaving clubs and regions have and how they address these.  The New Zealand West Coast has extremely different surf conditions and they are like nothing I have ever seen here in Australia.

What I found was a great insight was watching how the members over the ditch deal with these conditions in a safe and professional manner.

I have to say that the kid in me also loved the caves! I have never swum through a cave in complete darkness and exited on a completely different beach, but I can now which was a real highlight for me!

What skills did you learn to take back to your Australian beaches?

Lewis Warne

The skills we were taught around the rocks and caves were all new to me and I'm sure they'll be new to everyone else who participated in the program, and this is why I'll be sure to take this information back to my surf club and branch to help educate others. 

The scenario we participated demonstrated and highlighted the need for communication and organisation within the rescue/search party and the other services like the police. This will assist in the search and allow for a better and more coordinated effort which will significantly boost the chance of success.

A renewed emphasis on team work and communication and the importance of these skills are two of the key lessons I aim to take back to my home beach.

Hamish Christie

I think the biggest thing has to be the rock work. I had never had any experience with working around rocks, nor was I particularly comfortable with being near them in powerful surf. The experience that the NZ lifeguards were passing down made it so easy to learn how to manage a rescue on the rocks. 

I would now feel confident that I could not only conduct a rescue near rocks (If needed) and also coach someone through how to access the water safely when based on the rocks as well as teach someone how to get back onto the rocks as a rescue technique. 

Nixy Krite

As a facilitator on this program I was pushed out of my comfort zone and put in some tricky situations that allowed me to recognize my strengths and opportunities as not only a facilitator but as a lifesaver.

At the same time it taught me to recognise that the needs of the individual are different, and how best to help them along their journey.

I am hoping to continue to share my skills as a facilitator/lifesaver with our future leaders across the state.

Additionally the scenarios that we did were fantastic. Being put straight into the deep end and having a very difficult scenario to work through were fantastic. The main thing that I would bring back is that organisation in these situations is key. Having a control base that knows what is going on is crucial.

As a member of Support Operations (Surf Rescue 30) I hope to be sharing those skills learnt through our rock and cave access work to help strengthen our rescue techniques around our own rock platforms.                                                        

Ultimately everyone has a different level of comfort regarding physical challenges, and I encouraged EVERY lifesaver to set their own physical goals and go get em!

Damien Woods

The Kiwis love their tubes and fins and basically carry them everywhere.  The use of this equipment is a powerful rescue tool that I have underestimated in the past due to the different techniques that are more familiar to us as Australians.

While the instructor group from NZ was on the younger side and definitely made me feel old, the passion and professionalism they displayed was second to none, and was a really enjoyable experience.  I believe a focus on our members moving into educational roles sooner is potentially a good move in not only their own development but can benefit the next generation too. I will certainly be encouraging our young members to continue to explore all the opportunities available to them within the movement.

How did you find working with the professional New Zealand lifeguards?

Lewis Warne

The professional New Zealand lifeguards that ran the Intermediate Lifeguard School (IGS) were extremely knowledgeable in all the surf modules. They were very professional and made the IGS both a learning experience and fun by appealing to the younger guards. The important Surf Life Saving roles they hold in the Northern Region and their enthusiasm for SLS allowed them to be appropriate role models for the intermediate guards. They should be commended on how well the IGS was run and the large amount of time they gave up to plan and complete the program. 

The intermediate lifeguards were amazing and welcomed the Aussies. They were professional and all participated which what is made this program a success. They were enthusiastic about all the modules and assisted each other through the more challenging parts like the small caves or big swell.

The professionalism, enthusiasm and drive for change shown by the New Zealand lifeguards demonstrates that the future of Surf Life Saving in New Zealand is in good hands, and hopefully they get a similar impression from us Australians.

Hamish Christie

I thought the mentality of the NZ lifeguards was awesome. They were vigilant, switched on and always wanting to up skill. Even the volunteers all had the motivation to get to the next level and become a better lifeguard. I found that all of their lives revolved around guarding the beach and making sure it was safe. I thought that they were always active and happy to be there despite the long hours that the put in doing a very repetitive job. 

Nixy Krite

The Northern Region Lifeguards were very knowledgeable and professional, and they welcomed us Aussies with open arms and we quickly became part SLS Northern Region family.

They are creating change and paving a way for the youth and upskilling the seasoned lifeguard every chance they can get.

Northern Region Lifeguards your future is bright and your enthusiasm is contagious thank you for sharing your skills and passion with your friends across the ditch.

Damien Woods

Both the professional lifeguards and volunteers guards take the role very seriously and have a lot of pride in what they do.  Listening to younger members discuss how their peers respect what they do with their clubs is real positive, and is inspiring for us to take back to our clubs. 


Tuesday 20 March 2018