Daniel Comp teaches surfing skills to potential young lifeguards. Photo / Lewis Gardner
The second day of 2022 was a heatwave in Whanganui, with many heading to the beaches for entertainment and even for education.
On a perfect day at the beach, lifeguard Daniel Comp had a party of 10
children learn surfing and swimming techniques and get a badge for their skills.
Comp is the junior surf coordinator for the Wanganui Surf Lifeguard service. He relaunched last summer a group of young aspiring rescuers, with a first group of 10 young people aged 7 to 14 years.
The squad has grown to 50 and they are now scheduled to host two practice sessions – at 9:30 am and 10:40 am – every Sunday at Castlecliff Beach.
Children each have a knee brace which can be used for rescues. Comp didn’t tell them he was testing them, but watched them swim 200m in the surf, wade and float on their backs for the badge.
“Even those under the age of 10 can already spot the rips,” he said.
They will enter a lifeguard program starting at age 13 and might find themselves as Comp did – “live and breathe the beach”.
He wants them to be safe in the surf and know how to negotiate rips, and he applied for and received funding for the New Zealand Community Trust program.
Some were afraid to put their heads under water at the start of the program, but are now confident. They faced Taranaki’s big surf clubs at two carnivals and did “reasonably well,” Comp said.
There will be no problem finding rescuers in the future, his wife, Nicole, predicted.
“We’ve actually got a decent amount this year, and some of the newbies are amazing.”
Kai Iwi Beach was also popular on Sunday, with cars spread across the grass parking lot and around 40 people in the water.
Junior supervisor Olivia Bedwell, 17, said she was just as busy the day before but “quite difficult” the days before. Working as a lifeguard is her main summer job this year.
Among the four on duty at Kai Iwi was Layton Comp, Daniel’s son. He is 17 and is a senior lifeguard in his fourth season.
Layton performed a rescue at Castlecliff Beach on December 29.
Lifeguards were packing at 6 p.m. when he noticed a boy was having trouble in the waves.
“I just knew something was wrong, so I started to walk over to him, to see if he was okay.”
A big wave knocked the 12-year-old into a low where he couldn’t touch bottom. He started flapping his arms, rocking up and down, and gulping water. He did the right thing: he raised his hand to ask for help.
Comp reached him and secured him a rescue tube. Then he clung to the boy and took the waves for him. A large set of waves pushed them towards the shore and when Comp was waist deep he could drag or carry the boy to the beach.
The boy was tired and shocked, but unharmed. His parents thanked Comp and the boy joined the junior clamp team, with his first session on January 9.
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