Mitch James’ passion for lifesaving didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings after he quit Nippers at Cape Paterson Surf Life Saving Club after just a couple of seasons to take up competitive swimming. After an injury forced him to stop swimming, his parents kept ‘nagging’ him to re-join a club. He refused many times, until 2011 when he signed up to do his Surf Rescue Certificate.
After that time, he was back on course and soon heading to Northern Queensland for two years as a full-time lifeguard, developing his skills and knowledge. These days, he’s a volunteer lifesaver with Hampton Life Saving Club, where he is also IRB Racing Team Manager, and he works as a paid lifeguard on the RWC (jet skis) on weekends. Here’s his lifesaving story:
Volunteer Role: Vice Patrol Captain, Instructor, IRB Racing Team Manger
Current Club: Hampton LSC
How long have you been involved in lifesaving?
I started lifesaving as a nipper at Cape Paterson Lifesaving Club at the age of 6, only completing a couple of years before losing interest and taking up competitive swimming. In 2011, I decided to do my Surf Rescue Certificate, which led to me being offered a full-time position as a Lifeguard in Northern Queensland in 2014. I spent 2 years working the beaches and developing my skills and knowledge – I now have a dual membership at Mudjimba SLSC and Hampton LSC.
What made you become involved in lifesaving?
I became involved in lifesaving to continue my love for the water. Once I completed my SRC, I also realised I’d made great friends through the course in a short time and started to see pathways in lifesaving. Also, lifesaving meant I could be on a beach every weekend and give back to the community.
What are some of your responsibilities at your club?
I don’t have any formal responsibilities at the club, but I do have involvement in many things such as being Vice Patrol Captain, Trainer, IRB Racing Team Manager and Youth Involvement Program (YIP)’s mentor.
What do you most enjoy about lifesaving?
I enjoy lifesaving for a lot of reasons, but one of the top ones would have to be the feeling of being able to help someone who is in trouble and having the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made their day a lot better. On the other side of things, the friendships and pathways you can create in lifesaving make me have even more fun on the beach.
How do you encourage others to get involved with lifesaving and volunteering?
For me, getting people down to the club and being around friends there to learn is what it’s all about. It’s also rewarding to train the young SRC’s, because they look up to our life experiences, which encourages them to stay in lifesaving.
What is your greatest achievement in lifesaving so far?
I think some of the greatest achievements are with the people I have saved, or helped, and I think anyone who has rescued someone, or helped someone in need, will agree. Outwardly, the achievements of being awarded the North Barrier Lifeguard of the Year in 15/16, and Intermediate Lifesaver for Hampton LSC in 12/13 season were important to me.
When you’re not lifesaving, what keeps you busy?
I’m currently doing a carpentry apprenticeship and working full-time, plus working on the RWC (jet ski) on the weekends, so there’s not much time for anything else right now.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
I was scrolling through Facebook about two years ago when a motivational speech popped up. It was Admiral William H. McRaven (US Navy) delivering a commencement address to the University of Texas, urging graduates to find courage to change the world. He pointed out 10 guidelines to get you through life; the first one being:
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
If anyone hasn’t seen it, I suggest you look up the other nine!
Do you need more information? Learn more about our volunteer program and your opportunities at Life Saving Victoria.