Ben’s 1600×900 wallpapers

“I recently sat down and quickly made some of my wallpapers into 1600 x 900 versions for my laptop. I recently installed Windows 7 OS which can automatically change the wallpaper every 1/5/10 etc minutes, except it requires one specific image handling rule (stretch, center, tile etc). I forced them all to be 1600 x 900 so that they can all be set to Stretch and look fine. I hope you like them. They aren’t all my favourite wallpapers, just a small collection of the ones I had ready to share” – Ben

The Life of a Volunteer Surf Lifesaver

“I was sitting on the beach today doing patrol and thought I might write up a post on Lifesaving and my experience with it. *yes gasp, original post by me*” – Ben.

Surf lifesaving is a national pasttime in Australia. It is iconic and one of the oldest volunteer organizations in the nation.

The beginning.
I grew up at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I have known the beach, the surf and the sea as long as I can remember. I am completely at home swimming through the rough ocean waves and enjoying some of the world’s nicest beaches.

Whale Beach (via Flickr)

My father was a lifesaver when I was growing up, so I was constantly exposed to the surfclub and patrols. The biggest highlight was getting to go out on the inflatable rescue boat (IRB). The boat itself is a vital modern piece of rescue equipment. It is an awesome example of power to weight ratio; an inflatable rubber boat powered by a 25hp outboard engine. Needless to say, it’s fast, nimble and prone to getting airborne jumping over the waves.

The IRB

My Rescue.
When I was about 6 I was unfortunate enough to get caught in a Rip (tide current) and get rescued by one of the local lifesavers. I don’t remember much, but anyone unfamilar with how a Rip functions can tell you how scarey it is to be pulled out to sea and that feeling of helplessness.

Becoming a lifesaver.
The path to becoming a patrolling member isn’t as easy as just putting on the uniform. You have to undergo training and pass a rather extensive examination to ensure that you are able to safely rescue someone in trouble, without putting yourself in danger.

Trainees learn surf skills, first aid, CPR resuscitation, and of course rescue techniques. At the end, a lifesaver is able to: glance at the surf, know where it is safe and dangerous, rescue people in need of assistance and in the worst case scenario; attempt to resuscitate a drowned person.

All this knowledge is examined and lifesavers also undergo a physical test to ensure they are able to negoitate the surf, and have a fair level of fitness. After completing all this, you gain your Bronze Medallion (the most basic award which allows you to be on patrol).

The levels of lifesavers.
I mentioned before that Bronze Medallion is the most basic award. There are additional awards which enhance you knowledge and skill base and enable you to better help people in need.

  • Advanced Resusciation Certificate (ARC): this enables the lifesaver to use oxygen equipment and enhance the liklihood of a resusciation being successful. Each patrol requires 1 of these awards.
  • Silver Medallion: Advanced Emergency Care (SM:AEC, formerly known as “life support”): combined with a Senior First Aid certificate, you learn advanced first aid skills.
  • Silver Medallion: IRB Driver (SM: IRB): learn all aspected involved with operating, driving and rescuing people with the inflatable rescue boat. Each patrol requires one of these.
  • IRB Crew: similar to the driver, in that you learn all the knowledge involved with the boat except for actual driving. Each patrol requires one of these.
  • Silver Medallion: Patrol Captain: teaches you the leadership and beach management skills used to be in charge of a patrol. This is generally done by committed members and means at the end of the day you are the person responsible for the entire beach during your patrol.
  • Gold Medallion: you become king of the lifesavers. You are required to have each of the above awards and have to complete a big run/swim/run to demonstrate a high level of fitness. This is the requirement to be employeed by the council as a Lifeguard (paid lifesaving).

Typical day on patrol.
You come to the beach, report to your patrol captain and setup the patrol. You carry down the equipment (which has been made easier recently by the addition of ATV’s on most beaches). Pick a safe spot for the flags, set up rescue equipment and report via radio that you are on the beach and ready.

You then begin watching the surf and swimmers. You ensure that people stay within the flags, that surfers stay out and watch for anything that could lead to a rescue. Having been a lifesaver for over a decade I can tell you that the most common rescues involve children and foreigners (both demographics that typically don’t have good surf skills or swimming ability).

You can quickly tell when someone is in trouble. You first notice where they are located (usually somewhere abnormal). You then can see the “oh shit” reaction on their faces as they realise they are in trouble and start to panic. This will occurs before someone has the sense to signal for help, and a skilled lifesaver will already be on their way out to assist at this point.

Typically patrols are uneventful. The old axom of “prevention is better than cure” is so true. Good patrols prevent people getting into rescue situations by constantly ensuring people are in the flags and monitoring people before they get in trouble. The most common events involve; whilstling people in/out of the flagged patrol area, providing first aid (minor cuts and bluebottle stings) and minor training sessions.

My History of lifesaving.
I joined surf lifesaving (SLS) at the youngest possible age of 13 years old. I complete my Surf Rescue Certificate (SRC) which teaches you all the knowledge of a Bronze Medallion except for CPR. You are allowed to patrol after this, but not allowed to participate in rescues.

At 15 I got my Bronze Medallion through school sport. My school was fortunate enough to offer SLS as a summer sport (a good thing because I hate cricket and rowing). My theory was; if I have to spend 5 hours on a Saturday morning I would much rather be on the beach with surf and bikini’s than working my guts out on the water (rowing) or standing on a field in the sun (cricket). The funny thing is that whilst people would assume we do nothing but waste time at the beach, we actually were the second most physically demanding sport after rowing. We constantly ran distances, swam, paddled boards, and basically did iron man events from 8:45am until 1pm.

I then progressed quickly to get my ARC, Silver Medallions and became a patrol captain. I was the only person in my year to receive all my awards and was the only person to receive SLS colours for that year. I was also concurrently patrolling at Whale Beach, my local and home beach.

My History at Whale Beach.
I patrolled initially with my father’s patrol group when I first joined at the age of 13 in 1999. I learnt a  lot of lifesaving knowledge that was handed down from these very experienced members. The only problem was that I wasn’t with people my own age, and patrols were a long and boring time. I eventually got placed on younger patrol and was hooked. I started helping out with training new members from about age 16 onwards. I was already doing this with younger students at school and wasn’t particullarly phased doing so at the club. I got made vice-captain of my patrol in 2001 and eventually made captain in 2003. I was one of the youngest patrol captains in the club, and was one of the youngest members to ever win Lifesaver of the Year (in 2001).

I experienced mixed emotions about being a patrol captain at first. I worried about having the responsibility of the safety of the public, and of my patrol members. I wasn’t accustom to ordering people around, especially people older than myself.  I managed to come to the realisation that I was experienced enough, and knew how to make the right decisions and that I was letting my fear hold me back. I’m not sure if I saw this scrubs clip before or afterwards, but I like the message it provides;

if you know you can do something, but your mind keeps throwing up roadblocks [and holding you back], you know you can just drive right through them“. – Michael J. Fox as Dr. Casey.

I eventually progressed further and further until I became Captain of the Surf Club in 2006. I was Captain for 2 seasons, 2006/2007 and 2007/2008. There I learnt the scope of the logistics behind the running of the club, and the burden of managing it. I organsied over 300 members into patrols, rostered patrol dates, dealt with individual problems and basically was in charge of every aspect of the beach.

My Captaincy of Whale Beach SLSC.

Myself as Club Captain

I won’t pretend to have been a great leader in the surf club’s history. I doubt I brought about any meaningful changes, apart from the abolishment of all-day patrols. I did try and foster a better communication system with the establishment of the club website but this ultimately failed as I lacked the time to maintain it. I remember spending most weekends fighting with our command center over a bureaucratic mistake. I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say, it was a weekly annoyance.

I found that whilst I was able to organise and plan for a lot of growth to occur, leading a volunteer organisation is massive challenge. Without willingness, it is impossible to get people to assist you with tasks. I thank everyone that helped me throughout my captaincy. Eventually without the ability to rely on other people to perform tasks I found myself trying to do things myself. I was only one man, and this left me spread too thin and unable to provide any real progress. I also started working full time, which significantly reduced my free time and hindered my ability to participate on weekends. Eventually I had to little time that I had to step down at the end of 2007/2008 season.

I don’t regret being captain at all, far from it. I regret not having the time or level of support I needed to complete my dreams to my own high level. When I set my mind to something I try and do the job well. I’m glad that I’ve heard some people speak fondly of my leadership. I wish that I could have similar thoughts about it all. Unfortunately the whole ordeal left me feeling so bitter and exhausted that I contemplated leaving the club and taking a break.

My thoughts on Lifesaving today.
I wrote a majority of this blog post typing furiously into my iPhone and listening to the crashing surf whilst on patrol. I have since reverted back to being a patrolling member, with no specific leadership role other than when it is necessary. I enjoy being a senior patrolling member in the club, and being part of that exclusive “ex-club captain” club… (sounds like too many club’s to me).

To be honest I’m very exhausted with lifesaving. I tired of coming to the beach and seeing the logistical problems that plagued me as the Club Captain. I want to come to the beach and relax. I find it hard to have a good time when I feel like it is a burden to be there. I still have the desire to help others, and rescue people that need help. I’m just tired of the way the system operates.