Becoming a lifeguard – a week in Lanzarote

Becoming a lifeguard – a week in Lanzarote

As surfcoaches we want our students to improve, and have a great time in the ocean. However, we also have the responsibility for our student´s safety in the water. This his means knowing the local conditions, their skill levels and knowing how to react in case of an emergency.

Being a surfinstructor also means being a lifesaver. When completing the surfinstructor course, general first aid is included, and most licences even request an additional lifesaving course. However, I always felt like this was not enough.

Stepping up from lifesaver to lifeguard

I have been surfcoaching fulltime for 7 years by now. During those years I have seen some pretty nasty accidents, I have rescued an uncountable number of people, I have patched cuts and calmed down panic attacks. Experience is knowledge, and even though I would have preferred not having been part of all those situations, they have also given me confidence to be able to help.

Normal lifesaving licences expire every two years. And it really makes sense to renew the licence regularly, practise scenarios, and get up to date with new procedures. So when my surfcoach lifesaving licence expired I found myself wondering: am I really prepared to save someone´s life? Would I know how to react correctly in a more serious situation?

The decision to become a lifeguard

Being honest with myself, I could not answer these questions with a 100% convincing yes. This led to my decision to step up my game and sign up for a proper lifeguarding course. Yeees, the whole Baywatch type of thing, can you imagine? As travelling is a bit tricky at the moment I checked on the other nearby islands and luckily found Paul from Lanzarote Lifeguarding und eventuellen Lawaflow Surfschool.

After a few uncessful attempts of me hopping over to Lanzarote, I finally managed to sign up for the RSLL Vocational beach lifeguard course in October. Little did I know that I was signing up for a swimming course as well. Turns out that Paul also runs the Swim Lanzarote school, training eager people for triathlons and even the Iron Man competition. This is me during the beach practice.

Swimming, running, rescue techniques and loads of knowledge

So here I was, ready to improve my skills and my expertise. In order to pass the course I had to pass a swim test: 400m swim in the open ocean in less than 8 minutes. That scared the hell out of me. I am a very trained paddler but I couldn´t really remember the last time I swam 400m. Paul and Phil, the other course presenter, eased my doubts right from the beginning, ensuring me that I would be able to pass the test by the end of the week. Cheered on by their hopes I simply started swimming, and imagine how surprised I was when I passed the test straight away.

The week was saved. Or so I thought. What I totally underestimated was the amount of information my brain had to process, and remember. I felt really stupid having thought before that I knew anything about lifeguarding. The truth is that I was lacking skills and confidence in several areas.

But Paul and Phil reinsured me that I was doing great, and finally I stopped doubting myself. We swam, we ran on the beach, we practiced rescue techniques – repeating thing over and over again. After each morning on the beach I was physically and mentally exhausted. But after a short lunch break I felt ready to take on the afternoon theory sessions.

Repetitions are the key to a quick reaction

After all the practice in the water and on the beach it was now time to learn. Soon my brain was filled with accident scenarios, ocean theory, regulations, communication methods and different CPR procedures.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest. (Wikipedia)

We practiced CPR in various scenarios: an unconscious adult, a suspected drowned adult, a child and an infant. CPR consists of chest compressions and breath, in a 30:2 ratio. However, if you are dealing with a child, infant or suspected drowning casulty you start off with 5 breaths first, then 30 compressions, then back to 2 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths and so on.

I have learned CPR before (and I really hope that I never have to use it) but only now, after 5 intense days of repeated practice, I sort of feel confident enough to say that I could react quickly in a serious situation.

Being a qualified lifeguard makes me a better surfcoach

I am thrilled to say that in the end I passed the course, and am now a RLSS qualified vocational beach lifeguard. I have passed the swim test, the fitness test required to validate my licence here in Spain, the rescue techniques test, a written test and an interview test. And my brain is still buzzing with all the new things I have learned.

I love my job as a surfcoach, and assume the responsibility that comes with it. Being a trained lifeguard makes me feel more confident, knowing how to react in emergency situations, assuring the safety of my students, and even the other surfers around me.

I can only call on other surfers to get motivated and also train to become a lifeguard. This way we can create a safe surfing environment, in times when our beloved sport has turned into something like a mass movement 😉 Why not combine your next holiday with a lifesaver course? I can highly recommend Paul & Phil, great humans, highly professional and always good for a laugh.

NOMB Surfcoach Angie with Paul and Phil from Lifeguarding Lanzarote

Thanks guys for a real fun week, all your support and everything you tought me. Catch you soon for some waves and cool projects together.

Sea you soon!!

Your Angie

Being temporarily landlocked – a personal journey

Being temporarily landlocked – a personal journey

So that´s it, that´s what it feels like. Being landlocked. Not being able to surf on a daily basis. The unfortunate reality for a lot of surfers who don´t live close to the beach. A completely new experience for those of us who are lucky enough to have an ocean near by. The global corona virus crisis has ´landlocked´ a lot of surfers on this planet.

Dont´get me wrong, I am not complaining. How could I? From the roof of my house in Fuerteventura I can still the see the ocean in the distance. But seeing the ocean and feeling the ocean, that´s two different pairs of shoes.  Even though I am convinced that our absence will only benefit the health and balance of our oeceans, and even though, after 48 agonizing days, we are now allowed back in the ocean, I am still trying to  come to terms with this short journey of being landlocked.

Living a surfer´s life – how it all started

The decision to live close to the ocean came naturallly. 12 years ago to be precise. I can´t even remember having made a decision at all. It wasn´t that at some point I decided to live in front of a wave, it was just that I couldn´t imagine not doing it. It just felt totally right and comfortable. This beautiful beach I lived at in Chile just gave me everything I wanted: the freedom to surf every day, at any given time. The freedom to live my life without having to wear shoes and making bonfires every night. The freedom to just be me.

Returning to Europe was a very personal decision. But never would it have crossed my mind to settle down somewhere away from the ocean. And that´s the funny thing. At not one point did I now even consider living landlocked. Why would I? The ocean provides me with everything I need and want. So to me it just made sense to go and live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

What happened next

So here I was, happily living on Fuerteventura. The small town I live in has no coastline, it´s right in the middle of the island, in between the North-, West- and Eastcoasts. So why would I want to live here instead of having the ocean in front of my window? Well, often you can´t really choose who you fall in love with, right? And I simply fell in love with the charm of Lajares, it´s vibes and people.

Also here on Fuerte, the wind can be a big issue. So having the choice of having all three coasts in short distance makes it a lot easier to decide in the morning where to go for a surf. Here we always depend on the swell and wind directions.

Back to me living and surfing without much worry. And once in a sudden, the world gets put on standbye. And the Spanisch government tells me that I have to stay inside my house. Sure, we were allowed to do the odd supermarket / pharamacy run but the ocean was totally off limits. And there I was. Being landlocked. I guess the term landlocked might not fit a 100% it because I live on an island. But the feeling must be pretty much the same: this subliminal feeling of not being able to access the ocean.

And that´s what being landlocked felt like

To be honest, it felt like a punch in the head and totally threw me off balance. I don´t know how the ocean does it but by now it is part of my personal existence. The ocean gives me balance when I am dangling off the ceiling. The ocean puts things (and myself) back into perspective every time. The ocean absorbs my emotions and turns them into pure joy. The ocean provides me with a sense of peace that´s hard to find anywhere else.

Morning beauty on Fuerte´s northshoreSurfing is a sport that get´s into your veins. It connects you with mother nature and with yourself. It teaches you to reset your body and mind, and it shows you how to flow. Even outside the water.

Having the privilage of living a surfer´s life temporarily taken away from me was something I have never even thought about before. And was something I wasn´t prepared for at all. Despite struggling to understand what is happening in the world and where we all went wrong, once in a sudden I had to find out how to channel my emotions outside the ocean. Who doesn`t know the feeling of going for a surf with the head filled with pain, anger or frustration – just to return from the ocean all reset and full of positive energy.

What I have learned

  • Having lived without being able to surf tought me a lot of lessons. It made me realize how much I depend on the ocean and how important surfing it is for me. It is my job, which I love, but it is also so much more than that!
  • I guess, appreciation is one of the biggest lessons I have learned. To appreciate how lucky I am to live my life this way, and how much for granted I have taken it.
  • Gratitude for being able to share the moments in the water with other surfers would be another lecture I have been tought. I mean, how amazing does it feel to surf a nice wave and have someone cheering for you from the channel. Now that we have returned to the ocean I have noticed how the atmosphere in the water has changed. While before a lot of surfers, and that´s me included, would have been concentrated on catching as many great waves as possible, now waves are being let passed by, cheers of ´dale, dale´ (´go, go´) can be heard and smiles are present everywhere.

I feel like I have returned to the essence of surfing. Being a sport with a commercial site (which I am a part of) has made me somehow forget what surfing is all about. It´s about sharing moments, laughters and good vibes. So here I am now, having finished this unwanted ocean free time, and strangely I feel more connected to the ocean than ever before!

Thanks for joining me on my journey! Stay safe & healthy!

Your Angie