Huntington Beach, California, could seem like a world away from Jae Broomfield’s usual beach at Tairua, but with its white sands, excellent surfing and beach culture, it could not have felt more like home to the young lifeguard.
The Year 11 St Paul’s student was selected, along with 16 others, to represent Trust Waikato Tairua Surf Life Saving Club in a two-week lifeguard educational exchange at the world-renowned Baywatch beach during the July holidays.
The aim of the exchange is to educate young lifeguards, from both New Zealand and the US, on local patrolling procedures and compare with those back home.
“Huntington Beach is very different to Tairua”, says Jae, “They need to be aware of things like the towering pier, not to mention the huge patrol area and masses of people that swim there daily.”
As Huntington Beach doesn’t use flags, like in New Zealand, the whole beach is open to swimmers – one of many unique learning opportunities that Huntington provides kiwi lifeguards.
The programme balanced indoor lessons with practical time on the sand.
“They place a lot of emphasis on preventive actions and getting to the victim before they are in a rescue situation. This means constant communication with the public and lots of time in the water, informing swimmers about the dangers surrounding them.”
Jae’s first day on the beach was a culture shock due to Huntington Beach’s military approach to lifeguard training.
“On the very first day I was called out for having poor posture and needed to be standing straight with hands by my side when in roll call lines.”
A preliminary to the trip included 18-months of training to prepare for the physical demands of Huntington’s difficult conditions, which Jae says was hugely beneficial.
“From the IRB Amazing Race to the constant runs and buoy swims, this training allowed us to fully participate in every activity thrown at us.”
But it wasn’t all work! Jae explored the local region, joining his host family on trips to Catalina Island and Camp Pendleton, the largest military base in the states.
“We spent the days sunbathing, body surfing and laughing with new friends. It is something I won't forget for the rest of my life.”
Now Jae is looking forward to sharing his new skills with the rest of his team come surf season this summer. “I’m excited to take the skills and experience I have gained back to New Zealand and apply these to our patrols in Tairua.”
A contingent from Huntington will complete the exchange in December in the hopes of making safer beaches on both sides of the Pacific.
“I can't wait to show them our slice of paradise and I am very keen to add to the already great memories that we have made with our American buddies.”