Yesterday I had my last rostered patrol at Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Lifesaving Club before I head off for Adelaide in January. It was a surprisingly eventful one, including about 50 blue bottle stings, all of varying levels of severity, a broken IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) engine in the middle of 2.5 metre surf, a couple of temporarily missing children, and as per Murphy’s law, an IRB rescue to a stranded kayaker that I attended in Happy Valley just two minutes after the 6.15pm sign off, when the boat was already packed away.
When I joined four seasons ago, I was placed into “Teamo Supremo” and since then we have clearly dominated all other teams as the best in the club. Believe it, we have awards and everything. Led by Patrol Captain John Keller and his brave and fearless four year old Christopher, there are about 15 other people on the team. There’s Vice Patrol Captain Eliza, who can cook up a storm and is always down for a chat and her father Brian, who combines lifesaving with his profession as an optometrist to always catch you when you’re absent mindedly rubbing your eyes. There’s IRB driver Clint, who I’m always nagging to take me out on the boat to smash through the break at Happy Valley. Then there’s the four from the Warren family, who are so proficient on a board you’d think they do nothing their whole lives except train. And of course Bopfy, the Caloundra local and school principal who is obsessed with the Rabbitohs and will always be first to the bar after sign off.
I joined the club when I was finishing high school in 2015. One of my best friends, Tessa, and I decided it would be a good idea since we were getting our P’s and wanted to spend our newfound freedom at the beach. We did a quick google search of places we could join and it just so happened that Mets was doing a training course over the Term 3 school holidays. One week full of late nights, early mornings, constant training and inside jokes later, we had a Bronze Medallion and First Aid qualification.
Before long I threw myself head first into the club and completed the Advanced Resuscitation Training, became an IRB crewman and got my Silver Medallion in Beach Management. I represented the club with Eliza at the 2017 UQ Leadership Excellence Program which provided the opportunity to network with many other young leaders from clubs across Queensland. I also did one season of IRB racing, during which I generated enough adrenaline to last a life time and went along with the team to States.
In terms of rescues, it’s pretty lucky that I was at Caloundra. We have one of the best beaches in Queensland (officially ranked as number two, to be precise) and it lives up to its reputation. While there is the odd day of seaweed or blue bottles, most of the time King’s Beach is calm, controlled and perfect for families.
But as summer starts to set in and a new year kicks off, the beach at King’s does start to get a bit unpredictable. I’ve had to race out on the IRB to the back of the break to pick up many struggling swimmers over the years. Two seasons ago, we went over to Happy Valley to assist an over turned boat in 5 foot waves, and I had to dangle out of the rubber duck with the driver holding onto my feet trying to hook the Coast Guard’s tow rope onto it. Just last April we had to go to a man who was paragliding in the heavy surf and went down, getting tangled in the ropes along the way. I got to watch and learn as the SLS Jetski that was first on the scene cut him free, and then we found a way to bring the very heavy, bulky equipment worth thousands of dollars back to shore.
While I picked Mets for its convenience, I was worried how it would go since I had no connections to the club at all before joining. This was the first time I had ever joined a community organisation like this. I wasn’t even a member of any netball or football clubs growing up.
But before long, this club became a part of me. It’s the type of place that you can rock up for an extra patrol with a completely different team to your usual one and get along with everyone. Granted, you probably don’t know or remember their name but that’s no problem because everyone responds to “mate”. I am absolutely hopeless on a board and could never remember which button was 6WD or 2WD on the ATV but they didn’t mind too much. They supported me into IRB’s and gave me training to improve my leadership to ensure I got the most benefit out of my membership. The club has always been incredibly supportive of their members and have the infrastructure and attitude to mould to everyone’s ideal pathway in the organisation.
To sum up why I love lifesaving, let me leave you with a short story from the day.
Alexandra Heads SLSC, over Surfcom around lunch time, in almost two meter waves.
“Alex IRB, Alex IRB, this is Alex PC”
“Uh.…have you broken the boat?”
A pause. “Yes boss… Can we get some assistance?”
Another pause, clearly laughing. “On our way”.
I’m so thankful to have been a part of SLSQ and Mets and hope that I’ll have time in the future to come back and be involved again.