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Meet the hero lifeguards who will be patrolling Northern Ireland's beaches this summer

 

Baywatch the TV series and film made them icons, but who'd be an RNLI Lifeguard?. Karen Ireland talks to the people keeping us safe on the sands this summer.

‘I love the sea and helping people, and I work outdoors’

Beth Montgomery (23) lives in  Portballintrae with her family. She is a lifeguard on Portstewart Strand. She says:

This is my fifth summer working as a lifeguard on Portstewart Strand and it is a job that I really love. I get to meet new people every day and I really enjoy helping others. It is also a great job if you want to work outside, which is especially good in this weather.

It is also good to be part of a team and work with others who have the same attitude as you do.

I did my Beach Lifeguard Qualification five years ago.

Every year for the month of June before the season starts we take part in a month's training to get us ready.

This involves everything from fitness to first aid and vehicle training. It ensures you are fit and ready for the season ahead.

This last couple of weeks it has been exceptionally busy on the beach with all the good weather. It is our job to ensure paramount safety for all the visitors at all times. Usually there are four to five lifeguards on the beach at any one time.

Of course, it can be a stressful job especially when it is busy and you have to ensure everyone on the beach and in the water stays safe.

We deal with different difficult situations every day. For example, we are watching out for big surfs in the water and ensuring people do not get out of their depth.

But it's not just about safety in the water. Over the past few weeks with the hot weather we have been treating a lot of visitors for heat exhaustion and dehydration, as well as incidents involving children going missing on the beach.

No two days are the same, but we are trained to cope with all these things.

Another problem we are having at the moment is dealing with weever fish on the beach. You can't see them, but if you stand on one it can cause immense stinging pain. Then we have to administer intensive first aid.

I got into this job as I was always good at swimming. I swam in a club for years when I was younger and took part in competitions.

As I got older I loved the water and helping people and the opportunity to work outdoors, so this seemed like a natural thing to do.

My advice to people coming to the beach at the minute is to make sure you drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Wear plenty of sunscreen and keep reapplying.

Always swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the designated area for swimming. And aways go to a beach which has a lifeguard on duty for your safety.

I am fortunate in that I have never been involved in a particularly harrowing situation but we are trained to undergo every eventuality.

It's also important that we always keep our fitness levels up by swimming in the sea or in the swimming pool.

If a potentially dangerous situation arises, we are taught to weigh up the risk against the benefit, but I would say I would always be tempted to go for it and help the public. That is what we are there for.

My parents are very proud of what I do and two of my siblings are lifeguards too.

Growing up on the coast it was obvious that I we would end up working in the water.

I have just graduated in Sports Science from Edinburgh University.

I hope to train now as a paramedic and eventually I would like a career in helicopter rescue.

‘It is great I can do my bit to ensure beach-goers are safe’

Carl Russell (36) lives in Portrush. He is a lifeguard on West Strand. He says:

This is my second year working as a lifeguard. I have a background in surfing since I was 12 years old and am used to rescuing people in those circumstances, so for me qualifying as a lifeguard was a natural progression.

I love what I do - both playing my bit in helping to keep people safe and also the fact I get to work outdoors.

We also get excellent ongoing training in fitness and CPR.

I love being active on the beach.

Due to the good weather we have been exceptionally busy with thousands of visitors to the beach.

Sometimes people get out of their depth and we must engage the jet ski and go out and get them and bring them back into safety.

One of the most challenging parts of the job is ensuring people swim in the safe zone between the flags and surf in the surfing area where we can keep a watchful eye on them all.

It is our job to prevent incidents and to see potential incidents and prevent them before they happen. I've always had an interest in the water and used to be in a swimming club when I as younger, then I started surfing. That ocean experience has been priceless to my job as a lifeguard.

My advice to the thousands of people who are flocking to our beaches at the moment would be to always go to a beach where there is a lifeguard on duty to keep you and your family safe.

Stay within the flag zone for swimming and the surf zone as they are the areas which are patrolled the most.

And if you have any worries or concerns, always speak to a lifeguard, as they are there to help.

I don't worry about putting my life in danger to help others. I work as part of a team and the safety of the public is our main concern.

Besides, we minimise the risk and work together using our experience and equipment to the best of our ability.

Every month we have to pass fitness tests and stay in peak shape for this job. The training we get is second to none.

Nor do my family worry about the job I do, as they trust me and know I am confident and capable.

‘I don’t worry about myself in water, I’m well trained’

Henri Aiken (21) lives in Rostrevor. He is a lifeguard on Cranfield Beach. He says:

I have worked two previous summers as a lifeguard and now I am back this year watching the beaches. I was in a swimming club for eight years and I have done competitive swimming. I have also surfed and been sailing, so I have tremendous respect for the water.

Working in this job seemed the natural thing to do with all my experience in the water. I love being part of a team and this job gives me the opportunity to meet and work with new people every day and to help others.

I haven't personally been involved in any major incidents beyond the day-to-day stuff we have to attend, which is very important.

However, last year there was a serious incident on Cranfield beach when someone on an inflatable drifted out of their depth and the jet ski had to be deployed to go out and rescue them.

Indeed, that tends to be the main problem that we have - people, particularly young children, drift out of their depth.

In a swimming pool you know when you are heading to the deep end but when you are in the sea this can just happen all of a sudden, and that is when we have to get involved and help people.

And, of course, when they realise they are in trouble they panic, so it is our job to keep them calm and bring them back in again to safety.

Cranfield Beach is massive and it is important that people swim in the safe zones where we can see people if they get into difficulties.

It is also vital that people are aware of the dangers of dehydration and that they drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen at all times.

I don't worry about my safety. I have been well trained and have the best equipment and a job to do.

I have just graduated from Liverpool with a degree in Geology.

I have been offered a place at Exeter to do a Masters in Mining Engineering and that's what I hope to have a career in - mining.

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