I was chosen for the CSLSA lifeguard exchange with Auckland, New Zealand because the selection committee deemed me to be one of the most worthy amongst the candidates applying. There is a variety of reasons why I was chosen, most notably my work with ISLA. In addition to my work with ISLA, the CSLSA looked fondly at my volunteerism at their lifeguard competitions and annual meetings. I assisted them at the competitions by doing things such as recording places and handing out awards, and I have attended the meetings for the past few years. However, the primary reason I believe I was chosen is because of my work with ISLA.
The committee chose me because they saw that I was a manager with ISLA, and that I have participated on several trips conducting lifeguard trainings around the Americas. There is no experience that translates to my exchange in New Zealand better than taking part on an ISLA trip. The main thing the committee was looking for were people that have traveled, and more importantly, given back to the lifeguarding community. ISLA provides the best opportunity to do both of those things, and that is why I am in New Zealand right now. I have helped conduct three trainings in the Dominican Republic and one in Mexico as well. It is experience like that that the CSLSA is looking for when they select a delegate to take part in the New Zealand exchange.
So far, I have learned a lot from my time in New Zealand. The Kiwis utilize an entirely different system of lifeguarding than we do back in California, and I can now bring back some of those skills I’ve learned to help ISLA on their trainings. Lifeguards in New Zealand use inflatable rescue boats and a flag system to help keep the public safe. Both of those can benefit ISLA because both are affordable and easy to implement into a lifesaving service. Outside of that, I have learned to appreciate the cuisine we have in California and a firm love of driving on the right side of the road. Not that the food is bad here, but vegemite is probably the worst thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. Driving on the left side of the road isn’t necessarily any harder, but there was just an adjustment period, especially for Wheels McGowan. Also, I think we are either a bit tamer or maybe just not as adventurous, because people here love jumping off really high cliffs into the ocean fifty-plus feet below.
All joking aside, this trip hasn’t been all fun and games; I am working a fair amount as a volunteer lifeguard. That in and of itself is a fundamental difference between New Zealand and California; lifeguarding in New Zealand is largely volunteer-based. We have had some big surf and good rescues, and I am learning to lifeguard in a new whole new way. Being in a boat charging through twelve foot surf is definitely something new for me, seeing as I am used to swimming for most of the rescues I make back in California. While I am definitely no expert on New Zealand lifeguarding, I have picked up some valuable knowledge while training here that I can utilize back home. That alone has made this whole trip worth it for me.
Without ISLA, there is no doubt in my mind I would not have been chosen for this exchange. Not only because ISLA helped me fundraise, but them affording me the opportunity to go on the trips I have is the reason I am here. Assisting me in coming here will hopefully prove to be worthwhile for ISLA as well because I can bring back the new lifesaving skills I have learned in New Zealand to help further reduce global drowning. All in all, I have been having a lot of fun but I am also learning something new every day. Once again, I owe this experience to ISLA and I expect what I have learned here will help ISLA reach their goal of reducing global drowning worldwide.