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Lifeguards chosen for advanced training

WAINUI surf lifeguards Louis Birkhead and Steffan John have been selected to join a group of 20 elite lifeguards from around New Zealand at this season’s national lifeguard school.

The two young guards will be upskilled as part of Surf Lifesaving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) highest lifeguard qualification – The Advanced Lifeguard Award.

“They will learn about some of the more difficult and demanding emergency situations surf lifeguards can face,” said SLSNZ national education manager Belinda Slement, of Gisborne.

“That includes mass rescue scenarios, helicopter operations, search and rescue operations and working alongside other agencies including NZ Police, Fire and Emergency, and St John in complex scenarios and technical rescues.”

The school will be from December 7 to 9 at Fitzroy Beach in New Plymouth.

Louis, 17, received the under-19 emerging lifeguard award at the Gisborne surf lifesaving awards this year.

“It’s awesome to get the opportunity to improve myself as a lifeguard and to learn skills that will help others.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Steffan, 30, has been a regional lifeguard in Gisborne for the past three summers and was a lifeguard for four summers back in Wales, where he is originally from.

“It’s amazing to have been selected,” the Wainui school teacher aide said.

“In the 10 years I have been involved in surf lifesaving, here in New Zealand and back in Wales, this will be the absolute pinnacle.

“The three-day school is going to be a real endurance test and I cannot wait to get there.”

Mrs Slement said it was also a fine achievement for the Wainui club itself.

“Wainui have not had lifeguards qualify for the advanced national lifeguard school for some years.

“Louis and Steffan will be taught theory and practical skills, run through acted scenarios, and tested physically and mentally to try to attain the advanced award.”

There were 46 applicants this year for the 20 places in the school.

“So the lifeguards selected to attend are already the cream of the crop,” Mrs Slement said.

“They’re already out there saving lives on our beaches before they reach this school, but going to this level will ultimately help make their local beaches a lot safer.

“This is the super-elite level of our training and remember they are all volunteers — which is just incredible.

“We are so thankful to have such a passionate group of people who dedicate their own time to helping others.”

Two Wainui surf lifeguards have qualified for the elite ranks of the New Zealand Surf Lifesaving movement by their selection for the gruelling and testing national lifeguard school, from which they will emerge with the Advanced Lifeguard Award. Louis Birkhead (left) and Steffan John will join 18 other lifeguards at the three-day school early next month.Picture by Liam Clayton