Kristy McIntyre is an endurance swimmer who lives in Sydney. Her swim adventures include solo swims of Lake Zurich, The English Channel and Rottnest. Two years ago, Kristy joined the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club, Australia’s oldest life saving club founded in 1907 (and perhaps the world’s first ever life saving club).
Kristy is a volunteer lifesaver and trainer, and, with a group of 4 others, recently trained 19 new lifesavers over 11 weeks. The training programme includes practical and theory classes that teach new recruits: how to communicate on the beach, CPR & first aid, skills to negotiate the surf swimming and on a board, how to rescue conscious and unconscious patients and treat spinal injuries.
Kristy talked to A Lotus Rises about what it takes to train as a life-saver and the importance of swim community in her swimming journey.
Why did you become part of the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club?
There are so many long distance swimmers who owe their success to volunteers. Before moving to Sydney, I lived in London and was part of the Serpentine Swimming club. I loved the ethos and volunteering culture of the club. The club and it’s community were a big part of why I loved living in London. When I moved to Sydney, I joined Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving as I wanted to continue to volunteer in our local community, to meet like-minded people, improve my surf skills, and, as I’d just returned from the UK with my English partner (Mark) it was a great way to re-integrate Mark and I into Australian life and teach him all the things he needed to know about the ocean. It also happens to be home to the largest population of British people in Australia.
What is the role of life savers on Bondi beach?
Bondi Beach is one of the busiest beaches in the country, on a hot day we can get 30,000 people at the beach in a day, we do more rescues in a day than some surf clubs do in a year. Bondi is one of the Sydney beaches that is patrolled all year round by paid council lifeguards (think Bondi Rescue). The volunteer lifesavers patrol from September to April on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, we wear red and yellow uniforms and volunteer a minimum of 6 hours, 1 in every 3 weekends. At Bondi there are two volunteer clubs, Bondi and North Bondi and members of both clubs work alongside the lifeguards to keep beach goers safe. We rescue people who are in difficulty in the ocean, treat broken bones & dislocations, treat cuts & abrasions, help find lost children, take tourist photos and even provide directions.
What do you need to do to qualify as a life saver?
To qualify as a lifesaver requires undertaking an 11 week bronze medallion course which consists of 1 x 2hr theory class, 1 x 3 hour practical class and additional board and swimming training every week. To pass this course you’ll need to swim 400m in under 9 minutes, complete a 200m run – 200m swim – 200m run, in under 8 minutes, rescue an unconscious person from behind breaking waves using a board, demonstrate your ability to work as a team, communicate on the beach, perform CPR, lift unconscious patients, treat spinal injuries and provide first aid.
What are the common dangers swimmers need to look out for and what are the kind of situations you encounter?
At a patrolled beach, swimmers should always swim between the red and yellow flags, this is the most watched place for you to swim. If you’ve decided not to swim between the flags or there are no flags you need to look at the ocean, if there are no waves breaking and the water is darker in colour, this indicates a channel that the water is using to go back out to sea (commonly known as a rip). Don’t go swimming in a rip, if you do find yourself in a rip, don’t try to swim back to shore against it, swim across it to where the waves are breaking and take the waves back into shore. Rip’s won’t kill you and won’t drag you under the water, they’ll take you out past the break zone and then they dissipate, if you want to return to shore quickly, the quickest way is using the waves.
Blue bottles or stingers will sting initially, but you can treat them very effectively with what you have on the beach. Use the salt water to pull the stinger off yourself (you can touch this with your fingers it won’t hurt you), then try a warm shower, or failing that lifesavers will have ice and/or stingose at their patrol tent.
Another danger is diving head first into sand banks, if you’re at a beach you’ve never been to before, walk out into the water and look for where the sand banks are, if you’re going to dive or surf a wave make sure your arms are always outstretched in front of you, this will help protecting your head and neck.
As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What is your preferred SwimCake and why?
Banana cake with cream cheese frosting, not too sweet, its quiet dense so you get a lot of energy from it and when your mouth is all salty after a long swim, it doesn’t sting it.
YUM! Thank you Kristy!