LANGLEY– Lifeguards tested skills against other teams from B.C. at a one-day lifeguard competition held on Saturday, August 8 at the Walnut Grove Community Centre. CUPE 403, Township of Langley municipal workers, were sponsors of the event that is open to lifeguards 16 years old and up from British Columbia.
Kari Britton, Aquatic Leader at the pool at the Walnut Grove Community Centre and a CUPE 403 member, explains that competing in this event “is a great way to hone and practice your skills and have fun at the same time.” Britton helped organize the event and also led the Township of Langley team. This rookie team, “Cougar and the Cubs” consisted of rookies Peter Wang and Justin Davies, Mark McLeod (2nd year), and Kari Britton (three-year Barnsley competitor and judge).
Britton appreciates the sponsorship support. “CUPE is a great sponsor. If it wasn’t for CUPE 403’s support, our event wouldn’t be known as the competition to go to. Everyone looks forward to this competition, as it is the most highly anticipated event of the year.”
Heath Mahoney, is one of the volunteer judges at the event. He notes that Canadian lifeguards are among the best in the world.
Mahoney explains, “This competition is a good opportunity for the public to see lifeguards in action as well as a good opportunity for the teams participating. The only way we can simulate real life-saving situations are in these competitions.”
Mahoney is currently the Leisure Complex manager in Coquitlam, but was previously a member of both CUPE 403 (Township of Langley) and CUPE 498 (Port Coquitlam).
The competition would not be possible without the 60 to 70 volunteers who are the officials, judges and actors, according to event organizer Ryan Radford. Radford explains that 15 teams of four members do the exact same event with the same judge and same patient.
“About 90 per cent of volunteers and participants are members of CUPE,” says Radford. “CUPE 403 has been amazing and has sponsored us from the start.”
Radford explains that life-saving competitions for lifeguards begin in June and are held in various regions in B.C., culminating in the two-day Barnsley Lifeguard Championship that will be held in Kamloops this August. The Barnsley Shield is the lifeguard’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup.
Radford praised the team that organized the Langley event: “It’s an amazing team that put this together – a huge team of talented, dedicated people.” They start planning the event in March and all of the work put into it makes for an event that competitors really appreciate. This year was the 10th Anniversary of the Langley event, the longest-standing event of this kind in B.C.
“Teams come out because they love it so much. It becomes a family,” adds Radford. “If you win a prize, it’s the icing on the cake.”
The competition is set up to be as real as possible. Actors who feign various problems including bleeding from the face, lumbar injury, lost child, etc. are mixed in with the public who are using the pool recreationally. Lifeguard teams are expected to scan and find all the injuries, and help the victims. The day also includes first aid scenarios set up outside of a mock car crash, an injured search and rescuer stuck in a tree, and a parachutist with a spinal injury face down in water.
“It’s very exciting to compete,” says Alicia Kear, a lifeguard at Walnut Grove Community Centre pool who volunteered this year and competed in last year’s event. “It’s a good opportunity to build relationships with people and get to know other lifeguards in a fun, positive setting.”
“As lifeguards, our primary goal is to prevent accidents and to keep everyone safe.” Although being a lifeguard requires commitment and a fair bit of training, “It’s totally worth it. It’s very, very rewarding,” says Kear, who has been a lifeguard for four years.
Fifteen teams competed this year and two more were on a wait-list. During the competition lifeguards are judged on quick recognition, proper treatment, and communication with their team.
Andrew Suitner, a member of CUPE 402 who will be taking CUPE’s shop steward course in September, likes the growth to be gained by competing. “What we learn here we can take back and use in the real world,” says Suitner.
Paul Albrecht, president of CUPE 403, presented the CUPE Cup to the “Flip Flops,” this year’s winning team from Coquitlam. Albrecht says this is really a worthwhile function to show union support for young workers.
“It’s a way to connect. Our sponsorship is a way to give young people a positive union experience. As well as providing financial support for this local competition, CUPE continues to stand up to improve working conditions for young workers.”
CUPE 403 donated $1,000 towards the event, which bought event T-shirts and prizes. The Local also provided the food for the barbecue that followed the competition. Members from CUPE 403 cooked the burgers and hot dogs so event organizers could tally results and have a well-deserved break before the awards were given out.