Surf lifesaving: Skills as lifeguard open travel doors

By Cameron Leslie

For Whangarei's Eden Palmer surf lifesaving is more than a sport or a way to fill summer, it's the gateway to international travel.

After spending two months lifeguarding living on the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, in the US, last year, the 21-year-old is now the go-to girl when it comes to lifeguard exchanges.

"There are a lot of new guards coming over and asking me about the surf lifesaving," said Palmer. "We're getting interest from people who aren't even lifeguards yet. It's a good opportunity to use the skills that you've got to get jobs overseas."

The exchanges are between California and New Zealand surf clubs as part of the California Lifeguard Exchange, which is now into its 40th year.

Each year two visiting lifeguards from New Zealand visit Southern California beaches in July for six weeks. Similarly, two lifeguards from California visit the coastline of New Zealand during January for six weeks. Currently the Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club has two exchange guards patrolling with them.

Palmer is obviously passionate about what she does, in saying: "I'd say lifeguards use their skills every day. It's [lifeguard skills] real handy to have, coming across car crashes you have the first aid skills to help.

"If it wasn't for surf lifesaving I wouldn't have got my job at Camp America. [Now] I've got a good reputation with the camp co-ordinator and he's asked me if I know of any young people wanting to come over and he'll look out for them," Palmer said.

Her reputation was done no harm on the weekend after being crowned senior women's champion at the Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club's annual championships.

Palmer, along with younger brother Jesse, dominated in her division after having been off the winner's list for a few years.

"We were like 'oh yeah Palmer kids take it out,"' laughed Palmer. "He [Jesse] took it out last year but wasn't an actual guard so it didn't count."

- Northern Advocate

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