Lifeguards primed for season opening

Photo by Jamie TroughtonDscribe Media Services
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Isaac Marshall (left) and Mitch Cowdrey (right) practice their IRB skills after Zespri-funded training camps throughout winter. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

They’re part of a new wave of lifeguarding talent hitting Bay of Plenty beaches and Mitch Cowdrey and Isaac Marshall have been hard at work, harnessing their skills before the patrolling season officially starts this weekend.

The pair have been given an additional boost by Zespri, with the kiwifruit marketing giant coming on board as sponsors for Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s Eastern Region, which includes Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne.

Already this year, Zespri has funded education for 180 Eastern Region lifeguards, with Cowdrey, 16, and 17-year-old Marshall joining 43 others on a recent IRB development weekend in Raglan.

“It was good just getting to train in some swell, as over here, we don’t get swell nearly as often as the West Coast,” Mount Maunganui’s Marshall said. “To get out in some proper waves and to be challenged was really helpful – it means I’m more practical and I can be useful in way more situations when I’m patrolling this summer.”

Over summer, voluntary weekend patrols will operate at the region’s 19 surf clubs.  Regional (paid) lifeguards will also begin work in December, operating during the week at the 19 clubs, as well as another eight locations such as Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Tay St, Papamoa East and the Ohope campground.

Both Marshall and Cowdrey will be going into their second year as regional guard, with Cowdrey on the path blazed by three older brothers, Ross, Scott and Jake.  Parents Dave and Ailsa are also lifeguards at the Papamoa club.

“As soon as I became a lifeguard, I was straight into the IRBs, following in my brothers’ footsteps,” Cowdrey said.  “IRBs are such an important part of lifesaving and save more lives than any other piece of rescue equipment, so getting my driver award is a great way to contribute. It’s been really good learning the skills to put them into use on the beach.”

Local clubs starting patrols this weekend include Waihi Beach, Mount Maunganui, Omanu, Papamoa and Whakatane, although Eastern Region Lifesaving Manager Leigh Sefton explained lifeguards have already spent months getting ready.

“Most of our lifeguards spend all winter building up for the next season, whether it be swim or craft training, improving their first aid knowledge or practicing and improving their IRB skills,” Sefton said.  “We’ve seen a great uptake in lifeguards using the Zespri-funded education, including leadership development, which will directly impact our beach-going public this summer.  It means our lifeguards will be better-placed to identify dangers, to manage the public and respond to emergencies where required.”

As well as the funding for ongoing lifeguard education, Zespri also contributes a donation to the region’s clubs of the year, with Whangamata (Coromandel), Mount Maunganui (Bay of Plenty) and Waikanae (Gisborne) picking up the inaugural awards.

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