Sun, surf, sand and job satisfaction

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Lifeguards include, top row left, Cam Sisson, Jack Frizzell. Bottom row left, Lucy Hewitt, Brittany Phillips, Liam Taylor, Mac Hepburn, Hayden Rosengrave, Jasper Stone, Gus Stone. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Lifeguards include, top row left, Cam Sisson, Jack Frizzell. Bottom row left, Lucy Hewitt, Brittany Phillips, Liam Taylor, Mac Hepburn, Hayden Rosengrave, Jasper Stone, Gus Stone. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

It was a busy morning on Saturday out at Riversdale: children were brimming with excitement as they prepared for the annual triathlon, and families gathered on the beach to make the most of a perfect summer's day.

Upon arrival I was introduced to the lifeguards who were rostered on for the day. They were setting up gear, keeping an eye on patrons and patrolling the whopping 76km of coastline.

Lifeguard Mac Hepburn, 21, acted as my guide for the day and the whole team showed me the ins and outs of their job, proving the beach really is the place to be on a day off.

"Just seeing everyone loving the surf is the best part," Mr Hepburn said as we prepared to take a trip out in the inflatable rescue boat.

"And it's cool just being able to see everyone enjoying the surf, taking their kids out on the boat and showing them the ropes to hopefully make them want to be lifeguards, too."

Three of us went out in the boat, skimming over the tops of waves, which put a permanent smile on my face.

As the day went on it became clear that being a lifeguard at Riversdale was more than just tending to first aid or getting a tan. It is about immersing yourself in the culture of the club and giving back to the community.

"I started Nippers at Riversdale when I was 5," Mr Hepburn said. "So pretty much since I can remember I've been coming out here. I did Nippers up until I was 14, and that's when I became a lifeguard.

"We're about 40 or 50 minutes away from the nearest ambulance, so we really have to have sharp first-aid skills as opposed to other beaches, which have ambulances 10 minutes away.

"So we're the first point of call, really, for anything close to Homewood area. If there's a crash on the road, the siren will go off and we'll boost out to that."

Mr Hepburn said the only downside was "not being able to surf when it's like this", gesturing at the picture-perfect waves.

The next big event for Riversdale is the Nipper carnival on January 24.

Until then, these dedicated lifeguards will be on patrol every day from 9am until 6pm.

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