Yesterday we spent the day at the beach. Such a treat for so late in Autumn to have clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 20’s (83F). While at the beach we did the safety thing and swam between the flags. When on the sand we were reclining close to the surf life savers and it did remind me of a time when Carl thought I should become a volunteer surf life saver at our local beach.
Carl’s good like that; he’s always finding outdoor pursuits for me to be involved in. ‘You’ll love it’, he says, and I never do. But I thought I should do my bit for the community and so I enrolled in the Bronze Medallion course that is the prerequisite for becoming a surf life saver.
I had to go once a week for a number of weeks at night for the theory component and then every Saturday or Sunday for the practical part. The trouble was, the weather was horrific every weekend causing the beach to be closed so we had to do all our practical skills in the rock pool rather than in the ocean. This included swimming, rescues, paddling out on boards and learning how to get a drowning person onto a board and bring them into shore – no easy feat but certainly less of a struggle if you’re standing in the pool’s shallow water instead of being out in the ocean.
Finally it was test day and the Good Lord must have heard my prayers for mercy because whatever the conditions, we were going out of the pool and into the ocean. It was a perfect day at the beach with sunshine, warm temperatures, no stingers, no seaweed and low, low swell – hallelujah!
The first component of the all-day exam was the swim and for this we had to run down the sand, throw ourselves into the water, swim out to a buoy and back again, around 1km in distance. One of the men in our group (there’s always one in every group) wasn’t a competent swimmer and he made a big announcement that we were to swim in a group and that no one was to get ahead of anyone else. This didn’t make sense to me. Surely a race is a race especially when we were only given a certain number of minutes to finish the race.
Well the whistle blew and off we ran and when I’d done about 10 strokes of freestyle I stopped and put my head up to try and find the rest of the group. What made it confusing is that there were many groups being tested that day and so finding the contestants in my group was a nightmare. They were all behind me so I waited for them to catch up and one by one they joined me and we were all treading water waiting for that final straggling swimmer then off I went again, another 10 strokes then I stopped to tread water and look around to find the others and wait for them to catch up and after the third time of doing this, I’d had enough of the group performance. I decided to just swim along at my own pace and when I emerged from the water I had to run a distance along the sand and I was finished.
I won the race! I was so proud I was beaming. But the instructor wasn’t. ‘Where’s your group?’ he asked.
‘About 200mtrs back that way’, I said as I pointed to the water.
‘You were asked to swim in a group’.
‘I don’t understand that. Surely if a rescue was on the idea would be to reach the drowning victim in the shortest amount of time? So isn’t that what we should be aiming for? Speed?’
Can you believe there was a discussion about whether or not I should be disqualified. Disqualified for winning a race. A swim where you have to race against the clock. I was floored. Anyway, they massaged the rules and I was allowed to continue with the examination and at the end of the day I was awarded my Bronze Medallion.
My sister, on the other side of ‘the bridge’ had also recently attained her Bronze Medallion. I asked her if she had to swim in a group. ‘Ridiculous’, she said. ‘In my event it was dog-eat-dog. From the moment the whistle blew everyone ran down to the water with their elbows extended making sure no one overtook them. It was a fight to the finish and those who finished first were applauded’.
‘I was abused’, I said.
Anyway, I don’t want to say too many negatives about the surf lifesavers because they are all wonderful people donating many hours of their time to keep us all safe at the beaches. I just seemed to have happened on a very bizarre examination style that isn’t part of the usual way Bronze Medallion students are tested.
I volunteered my time for one season at our local beach. I didn’t save any lives. But none were lost either.
The outdoor pursuit Carl had for me today was canoeing. I canoed against the tide for a good few hours. Tomorrow I may not be able to lift my arms. I spent the afternoon in the resort’s pool recuperating. Hence the images!