Local lifeguard straight into leaders programme, no questions asked

Raglan West volunteer lifeguard Isaac van der Vossen got “a bit of a shock” when he opened an email recently saying he’d been selected for Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s highly successful leadership programme.

That’s because he expected to face an interview or two first, just as fellow Raglan lifeguards Jess Reilly and Ella Boyens had before him. Both have completed the BP Leaders for Life course over the past two years, and had encouraged Isaac to do the same.

Isaac, who describes himself as having slowly “stepped up” the ranks at his local club, now joins a record number of participants in the 2018-19 course.

The 20 year old will head off to the Bay of Plenty next month – along with 15 others from clubs stretching from Auckland to Invercargill – for the first of five weekend workshops around the country.

Isaac doesn’t really know what to expect but says he’s looking forward to the challenge of upskilling and “taking as much out of it (the experience) as possible”.

The thrust of the programme is to “enhance the ability of current and emerging leaders”, explains SLSNZ member development manager Belinda Slement. The benefits extend beyond participants and into their clubs and communities.

“We had some outstanding applicants this year,” she adds, and that’s why there are an unprecedented 16 participants.

Isaac progressed from nippers as a five year old through to a rookie at about 12, then on to become a lifeguard in his teens.

Now into his fifth season lifeguarding at Ngarunui, he’s also an  IRB instructor and a first aid officer. He’s active too as a volunteer with St John Raglan, and recently organised getting an emergency defibrillator for the Raglan club.

Isaac also does event guarding and that took him last year to the World Masters Games in Takapuna where, theoretically at least, he was “fishing” people out of the water.

Lifeguarding generally is not only about saving lives, he insists, but about having an “awareness around the water we are surrounded by (here in New Zealand) … I wish everyone could do it”.

Isaac reckons the only thing he hasn’t tackled to date is regional paid guarding – as opposed to volunteer guarding – which is done full-time during the height of summer.

The reason is he’s been busy working in merchandising to hardware outlets around the country with his father Derek, a former chairman of Raglan’s family-oriented club.

“And the boss wouldn’t let him have time off,” Derek jokes.     

Edith Symes