Audiences can’t get enough of the lifeguards on duty at New Zealand’s award-winning Womad festival.
A more common sight on the beach than at a park, inquisitive festival goers are quick to snap pics of Womad’s lakeside lifeguards decked out in their yellow rash tops, red boardshorts, and sunhats, and armed with life preserver fins.
Lifeguard Reebekah Robinson has volunteered at the three-day festival for the past two years and says Womaders are fascinated by the lifeguards.
“People come and chat with us and take photos, which probably go all around the world. It’s a great chance to promote what lifeguards do,” Robinson says.
And, just like at the beach, the Womad lifeguards are prepared to jump into the lake if need be and assist people to get out again safely.
Robinson belongs to New Plymouth’s East End Surf Life Saving Club, one of the four clubs in the region to provide lifeguard services for Womad. It’s a gig that’s understandably very popular.
Lucy North explains that two lifeguards are stationed at either end of the lake front for six-hour stints.
“It’s great to get to see a bit of the festival, while helping out the club,” she says.
“Even when you’re on duty, you’re still in the atmosphere and able to listen to the music. It’s really cool,” Alex Paterson adds.
The teenagers haven’t had to put their lifesaving training to use at Womad yet, with festival goers tending to leave splashing in the lake to the resident ducks.
As well as being a Womad NZ partner TSB is a major supporter of Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
At the end of last year TSB gave the East End club a $5000 grant to pay for a new rescue board, two radios and four rescues tubes to support the volunteer beach patrols.
East End lifeguard Andrew Carley says the support of sponsors is incredibly important.
“Without the support of sponsors such as TSB, New Zealand would not have the paid lifeguard services on the country’s beaches during the summer months, which everyone benefits from,” he says.
TSB CEO Donna Cooper says seeing lifeguards at the ready beside the TSB Bowl lake at Womad last year made her smile.
“Womad and Surf Life Saving New Zealand are our two main partnerships and we’re really proud of what they contribute to our community.
“I think it’s pretty cool that the volunteers who give up so much of their time each year to keep Kiwis safe at the beach, also get to do that at the best festival in the country.”
Words by Rochelle West