This work experience story goes back a while when I was still in college, looking for a summer job. I had just turned 18 and was looking for adventure. Before the summer holidays my sports college arranged work experience placements for two weeks with sports organisations.
I'm a good swimmer so I found a place with the beach lifeguards, which is what I always wanted to learn more about. On the phone they told me not to come in my best clothes, just in a well fitting casual outfit.
As I arrived they showed me the ready room, the showers, the big spin dryer and my locker. I was to leave my wallet, mobile phone and other bits in my locker because we had to be ready for action at any time. They had lots of cool kit there, like boats, throw ropes and torpedo buoys.
This morning was staff training.
The others were already dressed in their uniforms: tracksuit bottoms, lycra swimshirt and a lifeguard anorak.
I would get my uniform afterwards, they said.
The team captain told Toby to take the boat out and drop the "buoy" 100m from the shore. Toby motioned at me to follow him. Nervously I asked him if I should change into swimwear, but he said that won't be necessary for this training. Instead he asked me to put on a dark blue canoeing anorak with bright red hood and sleeves.
We carried the boat down the beach. Toby moved it into knee-deep water to keep the waves from pushing it onto the pebbles. "Get in." Toby said. I hesitated. He laughed. "Wet feet won't hurt you." So I waded in and climbed onboard.
As we headed out at speed, some waves splashed over the side. Spray hit my anorak and I thought that is why they gave it to me. As we reached the drop point for the buoy I noticed that we didn't have a buoy on board. That was odd.
"Put your hood up so you can be seen better." Toby said. I obeyed, not knowing why I needed to be visible in the boat.
Then he said with a broad smile: "Time for you to jump in."
I was completely surprised. "What? Fully clothed?" I asked.
"Sure. That's how we swim here." He gave me a gentle push until I lost my balance and fell backwards into the water.
As I resurfaced and got my bearings I noticed a lifeguard running into the water in his yellow uniform, whilst Toby was heading back, leaving me behind. Now it all became clear to me. The team captain didn't mean "drop the buoy" but "drop the boy", which was me.
The lifeguard pushed a torpedo buoy towards me. He said "Hold onto it and turn on your back." I did as I was told and moments later we reached the beach. As we went through the surf he grabbed me under the shoulders and dragged me over the pebbles onto the beach.
The team captain asked if I enjoyed that. "Well, yeah, sure. It was just very unexpected." I replied. "The unexpected is our business. Let's do it a few more times." she shouted with a big smile.
Again and again I was taken out in the boat. I put my hood up and dived into the water. This was easy. They towed me to the beach, I climbed back into the boat to go out and jump in again. Swimming fully clothed was actually more fun than I thought.
After the training we all went to showers. I learned that it is very important to rinse all clothes really well, or they start to smell and rot. As salt water dries, it leaves small razor sharp salt crystals that can shred the clothes over time. That's why they keep their kit on in the shower for at least 10 minutes and then put it into the spin dryer.
While I dried my hair with a towel, I wondered what suprises they've lined up for me next. After I hung the towel onto a hook, Toby called me to the locker room to get my lifeguard uniform:
As I put on my uniform I asked them why most of it was double. "One to wear and one to dry," James explained. I asked what they meant by that while I put on the hoodie. "Let us show you, then you will understand." Toby said this with his usual broad smile that indicated an upcoming surprise.
They took me back to the beach. While James stood behind me Toby talked about being ready for anything. Suddenly James grabbed me under the shoulders and Toby went for my legs. They quickly ran into the water and dropped me in. Well, I guess I had that coming.
We stayed in the water for half an hour. They showed me how to properly swim in clothes and use the hoodie as a towing aid. They put a high emphasis on realistic staff training. It was fun, but quite a hard workout.
Afterwards we went out on beach patrol for the rest of the day and I learned a lot. The day came to an end with another spontaneous swim. We splashed around for a while, just to relax after a long day. The uniform was really comfortable in the water, great stuff.
This was great.
I realised how lucky I was as I walked home.
The whole two weeks went by in a similar manner.
I had lots of fun and asked them if I could stay for the summer holidays. More later.