He’s only been in the country a week and only been qualified as a surf lifeguard for the best part of a day but Will Dansereau has already shown he’s no rookie when it comes to real-life rescues.
The 19-year-old Canadian helped an ill teenaged girl off the flanks of Mauao yesterday, with he and fellow lifeguard Andrew Roy stabilising her and transporting her down to a waiting ambulance at the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service.
The incident came five days before the official start of the surf lifesaving patrolling season, with Dansereau joining the Mount club for the next seven months. Although there’s no ocean in his home city Ottawa, he’s been working as a lifeguard since he was 16 and has completed an Advanced Medical First Responder course, as well as working as a volunteer for the St John Ambulance service.
“One of my aims is to become a medic and first aid trauma is something I like to focus on, helping people out when they’re in trouble,” Dansereau said. “I didn’t expect to get to use my skills so soon – I’d only just sat my lifeguard award on Sunday and was going through the trauma kits and picking up my patrol uniform when we were called up the Mount.”
The recent high school graduate admits he likes to keep himself busy – he’s an avid skydiver with experience in wing suits, loves scuba diving and runs half marathons. He joined the Mount club with the intention of not only improving his practical first aid knowledge but also the sport side of the movement – he’s training with the national champion Mount squad under coach John Bryant, trying to make the Canadian team for next year’s world championships.
“I didn’t really know what was involved in the sport when I first started – I thought they used kayaks and surfboards, rather than surf skis and rescue boards. Now I realise the purpose behind the sport and that those craft are designed to help save lives. I’ve got the bug now.”
Labour Weekend traditionally marks the start of the season in the Bay of Plenty, with voluntary patrols starting on Saturday and running through until Easter. A number of international lifeguards work and train at the likes of Mount, Omanu and Papamoa over summer, with many of them working as paid regional guards during the busy December/January stretch.
Dansereau, who wants to eventually serve as a military medic for the Canadian armed forces, is keen to soak up as much as he can.
“The big thing for me now is learning how to handle the surf environment. We don’t get waves – aside from two boats passing by – but our biggest issue is currents. The surf environment is definitely an obstacle I need to pass but my experience in rescues and confidence in those scenarios will definitely help. The same rules apply – make sure you don’t become a victim yourself, stay calm and work as a team where possible – and that applies no matter where.”
This weekend also sees the start of the junior surf programme in Mount Maunganui, with nippers registration and have-a-go day at the club for 5-13 year olds on Sunday from 10am–12pm.
Tips for staying safe this summer
- swim between the flags
- don’t swim alone
- listen to lifeguards
- don’t swim under the influence of drugs or alcohol