Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Singing a safety song for summer

Jamie McDell says she likes being recognised when she's working at the beach in her role as a lifeguard and she's determined to continue using her profile to highlight water safety. Photo / Supplied
Jamie McDell says she likes being recognised when she's working at the beach in her role as a lifeguard and she's determined to continue using her profile to highlight water safety. Photo / Supplied

Each summer, one of the country's top music talents swaps her guitar for a red and yellow rescue tube.

Singer-songwriter Jamie McDell is fronting a campaign for DHL and Surf Life Saving New Zealand at Piha and Pauanui, her home beach, this month.

The You'll Never Take That Away star is keen for Kiwis to learn more about her other passion - surf lifesaving

For the past four years, the 23-year-old has served as a volunteer surf lifesaver each season at the Coromandel holiday spot.

Long before she shot to fame, McDell was taught by her parents about the importance of water safety.

"My family really is a sailing family, and when I was 7, we lived aboard a yacht - an important part of that was learning how to swim and handle yourself in the water."

At 19, around the time her first single hit the airwaves, she became involved in surf lifesaving through friends from college.

Over the busy summer season, when numbers on the beach swell to the thousands, McDell can often be found patrolling in her red shorts and cap.

Do people notice her?

"It's strange - that's actually the place that people most recognise me," she said with a laugh.

"I actually really like it because it means kids are coming up to you and are beginning to be really comfortable talking to a lifeguard - that's a massive thing which is going to change the minds of a lot of Kiwis going to the beach."

She's also made her share of rescues, including that of a young girl she pulled out of the surf at nearby Whiritoa.

"A few weeks later I was on the radio doing an interview about my album, and the little girl's mum called up and said, thanks, you rescued my daughter - that was really nice."

McDell believed the "preventative actions" lifeguards make, such as asking someone to move inside the flags, were more notable than actual rescues: about 400,000 of these were taken last season, compared with 1328 lives saved.

She's determined to continue using her profile to highlight water safety.

"I feel lucky and grateful to be in a position where I do have a voice that people might listen to - so it definitely makes sense for me to use it."

Jamie McDell will be visiting visiting Piha on Saturday, February 13, and Pauanui on February, 20, to raise awareness for Surf Life Saving.

- NZ Herald

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