Surf Life Saving - Harvey Trehane
Created to help surfers warm up rapidly after coming out of the cold British water, it was no surprise that dryrobes were quickly adopted by surf lifesaving teams around the country too.
Harvey Trehane, an RNLI Lifeguard and the lifesaving captain of Branksome Chine Surf Life Saving Club, got in touch to let us know how useful dryrobes had been at an event his club attended at the end of last year:
“Our club provided safety cover for the BaySUP Frostbite Stand Up Paddleboard Series in Poole, where unfortunately after the race had finished one competitor was found on showing signs of hypothermia.
With funding from various sources, we have been fortunate enough to purchase some vital first aid equipment such as special medi-wrap blankets for these such occasions, but none of this seemed to have any effect. That was until some of the other competitors offered their dryrobes to help warm him up. We ended up wrapping him in two dryrobes which I’m sure helped before we got him to hospital.
It was at that moment that it dawned on me if those dryrobes hadn’t been offered then the poor bloke might not have gone home to his family as quickly as he did on this occasion.”
Moved by this story, we donated two branded dryrobes to Branksome Chine Surf Life Saving Club to be used as part of their first aid kit for events.
We caught up with Harvey at the start of the year to find out more about surf lifesaving and how a dryrobe had helped when he found himself in a dangerous situation a few years ago...
When did you first get into surf lifesaving?
I got into surf lifesaving when I was 13. I was a competitive swimmer at the time and some of my teammates were already involved so they invited me along and I immediately loved it. When I turned 16 I joined the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) as a professional lifeguard and have loved every season so far. This has also enabled me to travel to Australia and New Zealand to lifeguard their beaches during our winter.
What does surf lifesaving involve?
Surf lifesaving is a movement aimed at developing the ability and the fitness needed to save a life. The sport of surf lifesaving evolved from when lifeguards realised that whilst honing their skills, they could also make a competition of it. It has now developed into an internationally recognised sport comprised of events using various lifesaving devices, but it still maintains its core purpose of developing the ability and to save a life.
How do surf lifesavers differ from lifeguards?
Surf lifesavers in the UK are generally unpaid volunteers whereas lifeguards are generally paid.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve needed treatment yourself?
In 2012 I was a junior competing at the SLSGB Surf Life Saving Nationals at Saunton Sands in North Devon, which has an enormous tidal range. It was low tide which meant a long walk back to the dunes where our surf lifesaving club tent was based; I had just completed the Iron Man event (a combination of surf ski paddling/rescue board paddling and swimming) and I was looking for a fellow club member to help me carry my board and ski up to the dunes, but I couldn’t find anyone. I was freezing cold, in a 2mm wetsuit for flexibility and exhausted, but it seemed I had no option but to make the long walk carrying them back up by myself. Safe to say by the time I got near to the dunes I was not in a good way, I collapsed in a heap on the sand where I was apparently spotted and taken back up to the club tent. Somebody put a dryobe around me they’d bought earlier that day, along with various blankets and woolly things until I became alert enough to drink some tea. My mum went to your tent the next day and bought three dryrobes, one for each of her sons, and I’ve sworn by its simplicity and practicality at every event I’ve been to since.
What do you consider essential pieces of kit for any surf lifesaving team?
From a sports point of view in the UK then I would say that you’d need an appropriate wetsuit and swimming gear, hydration and nutrition, and a way of keeping warm in between races. A competitor stays in their wetsuit between races because it’s a lot of unpleasant hassle to change in and out of the same wetsuit lots of times so the vast majority of them use dryrobes because their wind and water repellent, have large pockets for goggles and hats, and can be used keep warm whilst changing in and out of the wetsuit.
For a lifesaving patrol, I’d say: a first aid kit with all the equipment the patrol is trained to use (oxygen, defibrillator, dressings and plasters, burn dressings etc), as well as equipment specific for the sort of incidents you have on your beach; we have dryrobes and lots of hypothermia treatment kit whereas beaches in Australia don’t need it. We also have rescue boards, rescue tubes, fins, VHF radios for communication, mobile phone for calling coastguard, ambulance and police, and a whole bunch of other little bits of kit.
How can people get involved in surf lifesaving?
Join a surf lifesaving club, you can find your nearest one on the Surf Life Saving Great Britain or Royal Life Saving Society websites.
Do you have to be a strong swimmer or are there other ways you can join in?
No there are plenty of ways to join and support your local club, you could be a first aider, official, or kit steward to name a few.
What safety advice would you offer to anyone getting in the sea around Britain's coast?
Always swim at a lifeguarded beach in between the red and yellow flags and follow the safety advice of the lifeguards or lifesavers. Never enter the sea alone and always make sure someone knows where you are. Finally, if you’re at all unsure or have any questions don’t be afraid to talk to the lifeguards or lifesavers, they’re very friendly and easy to spot with their red and yellow clothing.
Photos by Tom Young