Open Water Lifeguards trained by project: their experiences

The Healing Waters project trained new open water lifeguards to help with the project and at the same time hopefully give opportunities. This was an important way of meeting our aims to promote safety and outdoor swimming. The new lifeguards have been helping in the project and taking up opportunities in the area and beyond.

Here are some of their stories.

lifeguards with swimmers
Abby and colleague lifeguarding, 12 September

Becoming an open water lifeguard – a perspective from Abby, recently trained by Healing Waters lottery funded project

lifeguards training
Abby practising CPR at OWL training

“My daughter sent me a tweet about the Healing Waters project and it really appealed! Already a fan of open water swimming (and a past Brecks project officer) I was hoping for some exercise, new skills and entertainment during some of the darker days of the pandemic. I was not disappointed! A fabulous mixed group, genuinely outdoor classroom (brrrrr..) and a supportive and inspiring trainer in David Ebbs.

lifeguards training
Abby practising bandaging on Mark at OWL training

It was difficult at times fitting in day long training sessions over three consecutive weekends and the physical and mental aspects of the course were challenging but I passed :) I immediately purchased ‘lifeguard’ clothes (it’s all about the red and yellow) and set to volunteering and doing paid work too. I found it really helpful to have a new hobby/ occupation. Working from home at the same time as lovely hubby had been difficult for me so having something to call my own was priceless. I had breast cancer a few years ago and have found open water swimming very therapeutic especially as no one seems bothered how many bosoms one has!

 “I am extremely grateful for the opportunities and experiences this training has afforded me and will join in whenever I can :)))”

Abby, open water lifeguard, September 2021.

lifeguards training
OWL trainees at Thorpe Woodlands, 29 May
Credit BFER

“The BFER project, Healing Waters, supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to promote safety and outdoor swimming, and as part of this trained 12 new open water lifeguards to help with the project and at the same time hopefully give opportunities. As project lead, I’m delighted to hear how the new lifeguards have been getting on since the training in May 2021. Although we don’t plan any further lifeguard training, there are many volunteering opportunities in the project – get in touch to find out more.”

To find out more, including the dates and reports on events in the Healing Waters project see Outdoor swimming practical project dates, or you can Contact me, Imogen Radford, project lead, Healing Waters (outdoor swimming)

lifeguards training
OWL trainees at Thorpe Woodlands, 29 May, Credit BFER

The training was at Thorpe Woodlands, near Thetford, by lifeguard provider and trainer David Ebbs (@Ebbsebbs on Twitter). Applications were open to young people over 16 (by 29 May) living in or near the Brecks, who could swim 400 m fast in a pool and swim confidently under water,  be competent and confident swimming outdoors, and who would be able to pass the theory and practical assessment. The aim was to give career opportunities and the chance to volunteer for work on later outdoor swimming intro sessions in the project. Another two lifeguards who already worked as pool lifeguards were trained as OW Lifeguards 1 August and have joined the team.

lifeguards training

Damion and Ben doing a rescue at training 1 August, Credit David Ebbs
Abby and Niamh at Red Rooster Festival, late August bank holiday, Credit David Ebbs

Many of the new lifeguards have found work and volunteering opportunities elsewhere over the summer, including at a glamping site with a lake, and, and at festivals including Red Rooster in the Brecks, Latitude in Suffolk, and swim events in the Essex river Stour in Cambridge, and at Felixstowe.

On the third day of the training Tom from the BFER team chatted to some of the trainees about their experience and hopes, and made this video,

lifeguards with certificates
Successful OWL trainees at Thorpe Woodlands, 29 May
Credit BFER

There are photos of the training sessions on Flickr,

OWL training Day 1 Water ,

OWL training Day 1 Classroom ,

OWL training Day 2 Water ,

lifeguards training
Practising rescues at OWL training

OWL training Day 2 Classroom ,

OWL training Day 3 & Assess ,

BFER selection Day 3,

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Abby rescuing at OWL training

The open water lifeguard training was organised as part of the Healing Waters project, one of The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme projects, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Abby and Jen at Mildenhall, 6 June, Credit BFER
Lifeguards including Mark and Panda at Cambridge swim, Credit David Ebbs
Lifeguards including Mark at Mill2Mill swim, river Stour, Essex, Credit David Ebbs
lifeguards and pier
Lifeguards including Mark and Abby at Felixstowe Triathlon, Credit David Ebbs

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