Ngarunui lifeguard’s selection for US exchange thought to be a first

Raglan surf lifeguard Ella Boyens is California dreamin’ while busy slogging through the final semester of a paramedicine degree in Auckland.

Just a few weeks after the last of her exams in early June, the 21 year old will be winging her way to the States with fellow northern region surf lifeguard Sam Walters of Mairangi Bay.

They’ll get to patrol the California coastline – also known as the Golden Coast – which includes the popular beaches of San Clemente, San Diego and Huntington. And they’ll be hosted by American families during their stay.

Ella is believed to be the only one ever selected from the Raglan club for the six-week exchange. She and Sam go as part of the Buddy Lucas Leadership Program which for nearly 50 years has delivered a structured learning experience aimed at “exceptional lifeguards” who show the ability to enhance surf lifesaving in this country.

Exchange delegates participate in patrolling, practise with various types of rescue equipment and observe alternative beach management programmes and administrative structures.

The lifeguard system is “really different” in California, Ella explains. The density of population along its coast means towers are spaced at 100 or 200 metres along the vast stretches of beach, with a guard or two patrolling from each.

And lifeguarding there is a professional career choice while here it’s more of a volunteering role because of the shorter season.

Ella spent the past summer based at Ngarunui as a full-time paid lifeguard during the week, then patrolling as a volunteer at weekends.

The local clubhouse with its dorms and other live-in facilities has become a something of a second home, she says. Although currently Auckland based, she’s lived until recently at her family home in Hamilton while commuting either to Auckland University of Technology for paramedicine studies or to Raglan for surf lifesaving.

Ella hopes to do a few more paid seasons at Ngarunui before working fulltime as a paramedic either in Auckland with St John Ambulance or with Wellington Free Ambulance.       

Her Bachelor of Health Science majoring in paramedicine is a tertiary level degree, she says, which also gives an “in” to ambulance services in Australia and to the London Ambulance Service.

Ella believes her experience the past decade or so with Raglan Surf Life Saving Club has stood her in good stead for a career in paramedicine as there is some crossover.

I love the community aspect of it from a volunteer perspective … that shared sense of wellbeing with a great bunch of people,” she says. “It’s an awesome family environment.”

There have always been plenty of training courses on offer, too.  While as a teen Ella enjoyed the club’s youth development programmes, when the Chronicle caught up with her on Monday she was still buzzing over a weekend leadership workshop – funded by Surf Life Saving New Zealand and its longtime corporate partner BP – she’d just completed in Wellington.

In California her particular interest will be the medical training of its lifeguards and practices in place to keep them safe. “I want to bring that (know-how) back to our system and apply it to our lifeguard training,”  she says.

Although around $2000 for airfares will come from Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Ella needs to stump up with another $6000 to cover additional accommodation and travel costs. To help reach that goal she has a quiz night organised in Auckland and also an online crowdfunding link: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/2018-nz-california-lifeguard-exchange.      

Edith Symes