Lifeguards: A True Service

Morag Naledi McKenzie (Botswana AC 10-12)

To be a lifeguard at Atlantic College is more than a mere service. It is everything: your heart, your soul and your hot body. “Ha”, you scoff; “lifeguards are only good for prancing around in their wetsuits and flexing.” Well, apart from that (I admit to it, we are, after all, rather gorgeous) we also tackle one of the most dangerous, powerful and beautiful forces in the world: the ocean.

Imagine: running into the Bristol Channel on a frosty February day, when the temperature is below freezing, and having to swim against a dragging tide and waves which fill your lungs with icy sea water every time you breath in. Imagine then, the tide turning rapidly, and the waves rising and growing in strength, whilst you are still trying to swim to shore, to safety. Turn around. A two-foot wave is about to hit you head on. There is nowhere to go. Exhilaration. Terror. Panic.

That was I, and I did only what I thought I could do: dive headfirst into the wave. I was thrown onto a beach of rocks, pounding against every part of my body. I didn’t breath, all I could do was watch the froth swirl above me, around me, and feel the salt water stinging my eyes. Never have I been so terrified in my life, so afraid that it was over. When the wave finally retreated, I had been left at the top of the rocks. I couldn’t stand, could barley think, but somehow, I was carried and placed on the floor of our lifeboat station. Hypothermic and in a back brace (for fear of spinal injury) I lay on the floor in a state of severe alarm for an hour waiting for the ambulance. At it’s arrival, I was finally given some drugs, as well as the hope that I was not seriously injured.

At the Hospital, I was cut out of both my wetsuit and swimsuit for lack of movement, and taken to the X-ray machine. Lying bitterly cold in the emergency room of the Bridgend hospital, all I felt was exhaustion and dread. Thankfully, by some kind of fluke, all I had done was broken my pelvic bone. I am not entirely sure that I can describe how relieved I felt, except to say that the only time I cried was when I was told that it was “only” a broken pelvis. It took almost a quarter of a can of laughing gas to get me back to AC, and many more drugs to push me through the first month. Let me tell you, drugs seem like a lot less fun when you actually need them to walk.

I will be back in Lifeguards in six weeks, and until then I will be joining Social Service. Why would I go back? Simply because, I still have a passion for that most mysterious, rewarding and unpredictable ocean.  And, I can say with pride, that although the break is still very much a break, I managed to walk the 10K this Sunday with an ILB friend. So, don’t knock Lifeguards; we quite literally almost kill ourselves for the love of our service. (And then we tell the story over and over again to impress you with just how intense we lifeguards actually are.)

-United World College Student Magazine-


One thought on “Lifeguards: A True Service

  1. I am so proud of you all and your article is beautifully written. I can feel your passion and can see that anyone in trouble out there will be in safe hands when you have finished your training. keep it up, all of you ILBs!

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