NEWTON — Many of us do our best to avoid stressful situations, especially on a sunny Saturday morning in July.
But that wasn’t the case for 48 lifeguards who took part in the Surrey Lifeguard Competition at Bear Creek Pool last weekend.
“This is a really great way for lifeguards to come out and practise their skills, especially if those lifeguards are looking to get hired,” said City of Surrey community service co-ordinator Alyson Dewey.
“It gives them a chance to practise before going into a hiring session.”
Dewey has been involved with the event since the City of Surrey started hosting the competition in 2008. Her team’s goal is to try and put lifeguards in situations that they might not otherwise face in a live-saving scenario.
“They actually get to test their stress levels before it actually means anything.”
Competitors from around the province participated in a full eight hours worth of events, which included lifesaving simulations in the pool, first aid scenarios out of the water and, of course, swimming fitness races.
Every year, organizers of lifeguarding events work on different themes and obstacle courses for the competitors. This year, they focused on simulating the recent Thailand cave rescue, which resulted in the successful rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach.
To do this, Dewey and her team built a ‘cave’ that teams of four had to crawl under, before jumping into the pool and swimming to the other side. On the other side, the lifeguards had just two minutes to assess and aid in a lifesaving scenario where ‘victims’ were scattered throughout.
“It’s called the priority action event,” said Dewey. “I really like this one, it’s just two minutes of crazy panic.”
Dewey works with her team to instill elements of fun into what can be a stressful competition.
“When I went to my first event in Kelowna, they had a “Prison Break”-themed competition, so everything had to do us being tied together. There’s a lot of creativity going on in these events,” she said. “We always try to do something to make the creativity of the event better.”
Dewey and her team look to such competitions as a chance to learn more about specific situations where lifeguards might be struggling.
“Events like this give us an idea of what we need to focus on when we renew our training programs,” Dewey said. “It also gives [the lifeguards] an opportunity for them to test all of their skills with a little bit of extra stress, just like they were saving somebody in real life.
“For most of these events, it’s really about problem solving and working through those skills. For judges, it’s basically a matter of who worked through the situation best in the time they have.”
Although lifeguarding competitions may sound new to some, these events have a long history. While Surrey has been involved in hosting events like this since 2008, the provincial Barnsley Championship has been around since 1936. That event often determines who will compete in the Canadian Lifeguarding Championship later in the year.
Some competitors from Saturday might move on to that level, but Dewey says that’s not the most important thing.
“I want them to have fun and to learn something new,” she said. “That’s really the goal. If those things happen, at the end of the day, we will have better lifeguards.”