Monday, February 11, 2013

Special ISLA Shoutout

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.



The End of an Era


Taylor here with the final update to our blog! We have been in New Zealand for a little over two months now, and our exchange officially ended this past weekend. Since the last update, we cruised through Raglan, Sunset and Bethell’s surf clubs. Each one was rad in their own way, and we had a great time at all of them.
Raglan provided us with a beautiful scenic view as it is perched up on top of the hills above the beach. We would wake up, go to the balcony and check the surf every morning. Unfortunately, the surf was as flat as a lake during our time there. Never down and out, we decided to do some driving around in the IRB’s and had the pleasure of fishing. Fishing was great; you couldn’t even get the hook more than a few feet under before you had a bite! After Raglan, we moved onto Sunset for a few days.

Sunset was one of the more modern clubs we stayed at as they had just finished with some renovations. Ironically, it was one of the farthest away from a supermarket and other things people consider standard. We had the joyous experience of swimming across the Waikato River with some members of the club while we were there. We were told we had to do it at a dead low tide because otherwise we may not be swimming alone. With those words of inspiration, we swam as fast as we could and managed to survive. We were lucky enough that Sunset had just purchased a new TV because the Super Bowl was on the next day! Unfortunately that didn’t go our way as Paul and I are both big 49er fans, but hey at least we were still in New Zealand… glass half-full. After the game ended, we were off back to Auckland before we were to head to Bethell’s the following day.

To our delight, taking us to Bethell’s was none other than senior lifeguard and reality TV superstar, Kylan Dray. For those of you that haven’t seen his feats of heroic greatness, look no further than Piha Rescue on Monday nights. On the way to Bethell’s, we were told that there will be a birthday/welcome party that night, so we had to stop to gather necessary supplies. Kylan was celebrating his birthday, we were celebrating being at Bethell’s and we did it right if you ask me. We spent our time there patrolling, playing in some caves and on some rocks and we got a break from it for a few nights and spent some time at the Dray household. We got to watch some live rugby and we even watched the big boxing match that was on that week that featured New Zealand’s own Sonny Bill Williams.

Since the exchange ended, Paul and I have both been relaxing a bit before we go off to spend our last two weeks in the country. I am planning to head to the Coromandel for a bit and then hopefully take a pit stop back in Raglan for a second stint. Paul is planning to head down to Taranaki to visit some family friends, and then maybe stop back in Raglan as well. Fun fact, I will also include a picture or two from my special haircut I received from a Kiwi... she was a rare talent at cutting hair.

With all of that said, we would both like to send a huge thank you to everyone that helped make this exchange possible. From everyone at the CSLSA, Doug Leach, Rob Pidgeon and everyone that hosted us in New Zealand, THANK YOU. Paul and I both hope to host the Kiwis when they come over during our summer and hopefully give back to this incredible exchange. I will end this the only way I find appropriate, speaking a little Kiwi. I reckon I would be keen to come back to New Zealand very soon and maybe even do some regional guarding, that would be sweet as bro. I just can’t forget my sunnies and jandals, and always remember to slip, slop, slap and wrap.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Nun

Greetings Everyone,

I’m back with another update! We have had a blast the past few weeks and we have also been learning a lot. Since the last update, we have moved on from Muriwai to Piha and United North. We had a lot of fun at Piha and we also got to fool around on the numerous rock formations they have. We got to swim through some more caves, jump off a few more things and we got the experience of sitting in what they call “The Barber’s Chair”. One of the rocks seemed to form a perfect chair that allowed you to sit in it while waves break over you, pretty rad. The waves were thumping the first few days we were there, so we got some quality surfing and body-surfing time in. The beach in Piha is placed directly between two sets of cliffs called Lion and Camel Rock, which in turn makes the currents there insane! I haven’t been tossed around so much in quite awhile. The regional guards there had some fun things planned for us as we went hiking through rivers and canyons, and we experienced what they call “jug night”. I’ll leave it to you to use your imagination for what “jug night” is. The most fun thing at Piha is of course “The Nun,” and they wouldn't let us escape without visiting her. 

One evening after the regional guard patrol finished, they came to Paul and me and asked if “Team America” was ready. Cautiously we asked ready for what, and we were told it was time to do “The Nun”. Paul and I both had theories as to why it was called “The Nun”. I thought it was because you should find religion as you may be visiting your maker very shortly. Paul had the idea it was called “The Nun” because that is how many children you will have after jumping from it. So, a group of us headed out to get religious and pray that we live after this leap of faith. Before “The Nun,” we messed around on a few smaller jumps like “The Washing Machine” and “The Blowhole”. Without too much of a delay, we moved onto “The Nun”. I initially looked up at “The Nun” and thought it was a higher ledge than it ended up being, so I wasn’t tripping out too bad, initially. We started our ascent up the cliff, but we noticed much of the group had just come to be spectators. Naturally curious, I asked why they weren’t jumping. I received two answers from the group. One, they have jumped it once and they’re never doing it again. Two, I am crazy. With those inspirational words, I got up to the top, looked over the cliff and thought about what had gone wrong in life to get me to this ledge. I then decided that if I thought too much about it, things could only go south so I just jumped. I managed to get away unscathed besides some minor bleeding. Unfortunately Paul’s jump didn’t go quite as well as he landed a tad sideways, but he came away breathing so that was satisfactory enough for the Kiwis. After our action-packed week at Piha, we actually went back to Auckland to have a meeting with the higher-ups of Northern Region.

We were fortunate enough to have a casual meeting over lunch with everyone that helped make our exchange possible from the New Zealand end. They were basically just curious about how we lifeguard back home compared to here, what we think of the lifeguarding culture in New Zealand and what we have learned along the way. It was a great opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on to make lifeguarding in the Northern Region possible. As surf lifesaving in Northern Region is a charitable organization and not government-run like it is back home, it was quite a change from what we were used to. Along with that, it really was great to see such a group of dedicated people make lifeguarding happen over so many different beaches. After our meeting, we got a look around at the communication room, the Coast Guard boats and the Westpac rescue helicopter. It was all amazing stuff and it was really cool to see various organizations working together in the same building.

After that, Rob Pidgeon took us out to his club, United North Piha. We had a barbecue the first night and got to patrol a bit before we did some IRB training. It was our most extensive training yet and it was great to have Rob critiquing us while we were driving. We practiced everything from parallel running, pickups and solo driving. It was incredibly helpful and we noticed our skills improving immediately to the point where we may even try to get certified as drivers. We just arrived at Raglan last night and we are both pretty stoked on it. We can’t wait to see what we have in store here and I’ll let you know as soon as I can! That’s it for another update from down unda!



Sunday, January 13, 2013


Hey There,

It’s Taylor again, giving you an update from New Zealand! We are making our way through the surf clubs, and we are now on the west coast at Muriwai. So far we have been to Orewa, Omaha, Whangarei, Mangawhai and now Muriwai. We took a slight detour this past weekend and got the pleasure of watching some IRB races way down the coast in Taranaki. It’s been a little while since the last update, so I’ll do my best to provide an accurate account of what we’ve been doing.

After Omaha we went to Whangarei, perhaps the most “rustic” of the clubs we have stayed at. We had some time to hang out before we were told we would be competing in the club championships. That consisted of four events: beach flags, a 100 meter sprint, a run-swim-run and a paddle race. Paul and I both represented California proudly as he we came in 1st (Paul) and 2nd (me) on the run-swim-run and I won the paddle race. I may have also written “USA” on my arm in zinc as well… had to let the Kiwis know who they were behind (just kidding). We were lucky because we scored some good waves the next morning, but then a storm swell hit and the surf got huge! There were some 10-12+ foot waves rolling in and we ended up closing the beach because it was just too hazardous for the public. I was lucky enough to get to do some IRB training in the big surf, and I am happy to report I managed to stay in the whole time. I may just have a blister or two on my hands from holding on so tight. After a few days there, we were off to Mangawhai Heads.

Mangawhai was a great club with fun waves, and most of the clubbies there seemed to be surfers. We spent a lot of time surfing while there were waves, but we also got some training in. The waves had mellowed out the next day, so the regional guards there let Paul and me take out an IRB, on our own. I don’t know if they just had a lack of regard for their equipment or really had that much faith in us to operate an IRB intelligently, but everything turned out alright and the IRB made it back just fine. We were told we would be considered failures if we flipped an IRB that day because it literally was completely flat. Later that day, we took the IRB over to some cliffs where we proceeded to jump off of them. One of them was the highest we have jumped off to date, and the pictures posted give a good idea as to how high it was. We also got rides in their bigger boat, “Surf Rider”. It is a bigger, more powerful boat they have at Mangawhai in case they need to make it through bigger surf or tow bigger boats. We had to hold on pretty tight with Mel Laird driving!

After that, we got a pretty cool opportunity to go deep sea fishing. Tim Gibb, one of the guards from Mangawhai, took us out on his boat to try and catch some kingfish. The wind was howling, which made it really rough to be in a boat out there. Let’s just say wearing wetsuits may have been a better idea than wearing the clothes we had on. However, we did reel in a few kingies and one was big enough to take back with us. Needless to say, we ate very well for the next few days and I think I may have a new favorite white fish. After a few days there, we were taken back to Auckland where we would meet up with the Muriwai crew that was heading down to Taranaki for the IRB races.

We spent the past weekend down in Taranaki watching some IRB races. The races were pretty entertaining, and we saw some sweet IRB carnage! There were good-sized waves, boats flipping and crewmen flying overboard… a pretty standard IRB race from what we’ve been told. We only spent two days down there, but it was well worth it to see how crazy things can get in an IRB! Muriwai finished pretty well amongst the field, and now we are at their club waiting to see what we have up next. This is definitely the biggest beach we’ve come across yet, as it stretches over 50 kilometers. The guards here don’t guard that entire coast, but they have the biggest operation we’ve seen yet. They launch two IRB’s and they have more equipment than the other clubs we’ve seen at their disposal to help cover that huge area. We got a quick tour yesterday, and it looks like they have plenty of cliffs to jump off and caves to crawl in, so we are anxiously awaiting what’s to come! Until next time everyone…



Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the New Year

Hey everyone,

I thought I would buzz in with an update. Paul and I have finally started our exchange after a few weeks of checking out the south island. Upon arriving back to Auckland, we were picked up from the airport by our primary contact in New Zealand, Rob Pigeon. After barbecuing and "hosting" us the only way he knows how to do to Americans, we knew the exchange had officially started. The next morning, he drove us around a bit detailing the history of some parts, and then he drove us to meet up with our contact from Orewa, Faran Turner. Paul and I found it rather odd that the meeting place was in front of a bungy jumping business. That's when we learned we would be bungy jumping! We went ahead, hiked up the bridge and proceeded to jump off with a child-like enthusiasm.

Once we were done with bungy jumping, Faran took us back to his place where we would spend a few nights before going off to Omaha. Faran could not have been a better host as he made sure we were set in both sleeping arrangements, but food and other basic supplies as well. He took us to a local water park where we went down some slides and healed up in the hot tub. We worked our first day at Orewa, and we got our first taste of being in an IRB. After a few days there, we were off to Omaha with Jason Wood taking over for Faran.

We have been in Omaha for a few days now, and we really couldn't ask for anything better. Jason has been great driving us around, taking us out to some cliffs to jump off of and making sure we rang the new year in properly. We had a giant feast with his friends and family before we went back to the surf club to celebrate the upcoming year. Jason gave me the grand pleasure of operating the IRB, and I warned him that it was his funeral. I was doing alright outside of the break, so he encouraged me to try going through some waves. He told me that it was the closest he had ever gone to flipping over without actually doing so, so I could have been worse I suppose. We're going to get another chance to work tomorrow, so hopefully we'll get some more training in the IRB before heading off to Whangerei Heads the following day. Our stay at Omaha will be capped by going to a concert tomorrow night. Can't wait!

We will post some pictures so you can see Paul and me in action bungy jumping and doing other recreational Kiwi activities. Until next time, look right then left before crossing the street!



Friday, December 21, 2012


Queenstown is like if those extreme sports guys from Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle founded a town. There are energy drinks on tap at the restaurants and they will put a bungee on absolutely anything that moves. We have tried to avoid the adrenaline junkies for the most part and found some amazing hikes and day trips. The Fiordland National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It puts Big Sur, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Na Pali coast all to shame. Check it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Christchuch is rich in history but also raw with the pain of recent devastating earthquakes. It is a city in a state of rebirth that is thriving but still has a long way to go. Much of the downtown area is closed off for demolition and reconstruction. It's interesting though as they rebuild they are making it much more bicycle friendly with dedicated lanes and free public bike stands with pumps, tools, etc. Many of the original businesses from downtown have reopened in modified shipping containers because their buildings are still red-tagged. I guess that is the downside of historic architecture. We learned that lesson in Santa Cruz too. Some highlights included the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum and the beaches around New Brighton.