Life Saving Victoria recently hosted a group of Californian lifeguards as part of the 50th anniversary Wieland Shield education exchange and series of aquatic sport competitions, with Victoria crowned the 2018 champions.
But, it’s not all about winning, and as Californian team member and two-time Olympic swimmer Azad Al-bazari said of the experience:
“Every day has been a highlight, with something new to learn. The way we life-save is different, but, at the same time, we’re all watching the water, we’re all making sure people go home safe, and we’re both telling people where they should swim; we definitely overlap. In California, our beaches are long with many lookout towers along them. Here, there are so many bays and headlands; it’s so pretty. Thanks for the unreal hospitality from one surf lifesaving club to the next – definitely great times!”
The biennial event began at Ocean Grove in 1967 and the winning country retains a trophy made of Victorian red gum wood with a badge representing the State of Victoria and the insignia of the American Surf Life Saving Association, showcasing the close connection between the two associations for the past five decades.
As part of the historic trip, the Californians were shown the inner-workings of LSV with special demonstrations about the technology used in Victoria for lifesaving operations, as well as an introduction to LSV’s education and training departments.
As many of the lifeguards also work for the LA County Fire Brigade, LSV also showcased its Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter working alongside the Melbourne Fire Brigade boat in a special training exercise.
In the waters outside LSV’s Port Melbourne headquarters, a rescue scenario was played out where two Californian lifeguards were ‘rescued’ by Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crew member Liam O’Callaghan. He was deployed to where they were in the water and pulled them to safety before the helicopter transported them back to shore. The MFB fireboat then exercised its fire fighting equipment as the helicopter hovered above.
“We always welcome an opportunity to train together with other agencies, including MFB, to see what we can learn from each other and how we can support each other in rescue activities,” says LSV’s lifesaving operations manager Greg Scott. “The range of agencies we can train and interact with continues to grow, which is a great thing and helps with our preventive measures.”
“We were impressed by MFB Fireboat 2’s performance and capability,” says Greg. “It was a pleasure to work together and we found them really accommodating.”
As the Californian lifeguards don’t have access to a helicopter in their rescues, and rely mainly on swimming as their major form of rescue, the experience was something they’ll never forget as they got up-close to the helicopter and fireboat.
Alongside meeting nippers at the Surf Life Saving Clubs along the Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road, the MFB and LSV demonstration with the fireboat and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter were definite highlights of the trip for many of the visiting Californians, as well as taking over the full front page of the Herald Sun newspaper the next day.
The 50th Anniversary Wieland Shield was a celebratory coming together of the two countries finest lifesaving operations and next stop will be when Victorian lifesavers head to Los Angeles in 2020 for a re-match. Watch this space!
50th Anniversary Wieland Shield Final Results
Lorne event: California 65, Victoria 71
Torquay event: California 27, Victoria 31
Ocean Grove event: California 32, Victoria 34