Lifeguards sharpen their skills at Aylesford Beach lifesaving competition

John Decoste
Published on June 30, 2014

Nova Scotia lifeguards hope they’ll never have to put their skills to the test, but they brushed up on their swimming, rescue board skills and endurance anyway at Aylesford Lake Beach recently.

The June 25 lifeguard competition – the first of three sanctioned by the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service (NSLS) this summer – brought together lifeguards from across the province for a three-day training session at Camp Brigadoon.

“You never know when you’ll be called upon, for how long and for what kind of emergency. One year, we opened a beach and had a rescue within an hour. Other years, you’ll go for most of the summer without one,” said Kentville native Paul D’Eon, who is director of the NSLS.

In 43 years of keeping Nova Scotia’s provincial and municipal beaches safe, the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service (NSLS) has supervised approximately 18 million people, D’Eon said.

“(The NSLS) has never had a drowning, during supervised hours, at any of our beaches,” he added.

“That’s a good record, and a fortunate one, too.”

Between 300,00 and 400,000 people visit the 24 sites that have lifeguards in the province each summer. At Aylesford Lake, more than 10,000 people typically visit in the run of a good summer.


Sharpening skills

Lifeguards from beaches around Nova Scotia, as well as two Australian lifeguards in the province this summer as part of an exchange program, took part in a competition to wrap up the three-day training. It included board races, board rescue, surf swim and surf rescue.

Prior to the June 25 event, lifeguards took part in a three-day training session held

Adam Vanwijk, one of the two Australian exchange lifeguards, said the exchange program he is a part of has been running for about 30 years.

Vanwijk has been a lifeguard at home for about five seasons. The ‘season’ in Australia is longer than here, “about seven months, and we’re a little more involved at home, where our season is longer.”

Other than that, lifeguarding, he said, “is the same wherever you are.”

He believes that in Nova Scotia, “the standards are kept high, especially with First Aid practice, and the swimming standards here are very high.”

Vanwijk arrived in Nova Scotia June 19, and had been enjoying it so far. He described the training session at Camp Brigadoon as “awesome. It’s beautiful here.”

Also part of the competition was Jesse Clarke, who hails from outside Halifax and who started lifeguarding seven years ago.

A graduate of Saint Mary’s University with a degree in criminology, he lives near a lake and has spent a lot of time around the water.

“I thought lifeguarding would be something neat to try, so I got involved. Once I was into it, I started competing, and having a lot of fun,” Clarke said.

Clarke has competed at nationals the past two years, and competed internationally twice for Team Canada, at the Commonwealth Lifesaving Championships in 2011 in South Africa and at the International Surf Rescue Challenge in 2012 in Japan.

“There’s definitely a rush to the competition,” he said, adding that the training has made him a more confident and skilled lifeguard.

“And if that can help me save a life, that’s what we’re here for,” he said.

See a slideshow of photos here.