Lifesaver Brad Grant talks about the health and safety of Surf lifesaving in Australia

by Brendan Torazzi

Nov 08, 2018


Brendan: welcome to Episode 7 of the Australian Health and Safety Business Podcast. I’m Brendan Torazzi, the founder of the marketplace. I’m here today with Brad Grant who is a volunteer for the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club. Good day Brad, how are you?

Brad: okay Brendan, thanks.

Brendan: we're continuing our exotic series from over Coral Coast of Fiji at the moment. Brad and another friend are over here on a weeklong surfing trip so we thought we'd do a few in depth dives about different things people are doing around the country. Tell us a little bit about your role at North Bondi. How did you get involved?

Brad: I started off initially my parents introduced me to Nippers when I was probably about seven years old. I started off there. You’d go down on a Sunday morning and they'd get you to do a swim, a board paddle and some beach events as well like a bit of sprinting and flags. It’s just grown from there. It’s been really good. First time going out was a little bit daunting learning to swim all the way up probably 200 meters around a swim can or buoys as they call them as well. Quite a few of the first times I did I’d have to float on my back to get around but I’ll eventually get there. As the years go on you get stronger and stronger and you feel more secure and safe in the water and not worried about the depth of going out as well.

Brendan: down in the community do you still see people that you started off when you were a Nipper? That was a little while ago not that you look old or anything. It would have been 40 years ago.

Brad: I’m 46 now. I supposed so. That’s right.

Brendan: it sounds like a long time when you put it in that perspective.

Brad: that's right. One really good mate of mine is Gavin and he joined probably by the time I was about 10. Yes, he's still a member now of the surf club as well. He’s been a good friend. We’ve been away on a few local surf trips just up and down the coast. We competed in carnivals together. It has been quite good.

Brendan: what do you think has kept you coming back and kept you involved with the club? When you think about it it's quite a stretch of time and you're still pretty involved like you're down there most weekends.

Brad: it's a really great community. I find that everybody down there is there to have a good time. Everybody has the same interest as well. We’ll get out in the water. We’re very close. We all live very close to the beach and everything. It’s a great pastime to have. You really form good bonds between all the people down there as well.

Brendan: can you sort of share with us some of the, I don’t know. What are some of the stand out things that happened maybe from a health and safety perspective? Obviously there’s been rescues and that sort of thing.

Brad: when you're a Nipper they start to teach you from a very early age about the rips and water movement and how to make sure if you ever get into trouble in any certain situation that you know how to get out. Also not to panic as well. They start you off with some water safety. Having to look at the tides as well and different way the waves break and everything. You start actually putting some of that into practice as well. You’ll do simulation rescues where someone will go out into a rip and you need to be able to save that person as well. Then it has come to the real life ones. I think over my career I’ve probably done maybe 40 to 50 rescues out there saving people. I’ve done one resuscitation where someone's actually drowned and then had to do a resus on someone. We’ve also done just some heat stroke either too hot on the beach and also being too cold. Those instances as well.

Brendan: over the years the same sorts of things keep coming up or do you think that the public is getting more educated. For example everyone now knows to apply sunscreen or most people know to apply sunscreen in the Australian sun. Has it changed over time?

Brad: I definitely think the campaigns of the sunscreen Slip-Slop-Slap and covering up has obviously got out there a lot there but what we do tend to find in Bondi is because it's such a transient crowd and a lot of tourists there we still have a lot of trouble within a safe zone. We put up the red and yellow flags to try and keep people in an area that we see as a safe area, away from some of the rips and more of the current of water movement but that message is still very hard to get out there and we're still finding quite a few people don’t realize that and they'll go out and get into trouble.

Brendan: there's been a bit of controversy of late with North Bondi. It was in the papers probably a month or so ago. Is there any views? What do the surf club think about that? For everyone who doesn’t know the local council proposed that surfboards would be banned from the north corner of Bondi and they would be pushed down to basically the south end which is probably filled with more experienced surfers. Obviously like yourself you probably learned in the north corner to surf as a kid.

Brad: yes, that is right. I’m not really in agreeance with what the council has come up with. It’s kind of a proposal at the moment. I don’t know how much traction that is going to get. A lot of people from the surf club are against that movement as well. As you see growing up in the North Bondi area it's always been a popular spot to teach the kids, have the kids. It’s very family friendly in there. I don’t know that they have any hard evidence of anyone actually being hurt like badly by a board or anything, a foam board that is. I totally agree with no glass boards or hard boards being in that area. I don’t see a problem with them. The restriction probably a little bit more for the flags is probably due. There is a few people that push those boundaries.

Brendan: what you're saying is no surfboards in the flag area.

Brad: not in the flags but I don’t see a problem with them on either side of the flags at all. Limiting them to South Bondi, I just think if you're going to take a my son started surfing when he was maybe five or six. I don’t think it would be safe for him to be in the south corner with all the glass boards in there. I’ve had a few incidents myself up in the south end which is for adults okay. I see it being a lot more unsafe for kids having to take their boards out there.

Brendan: it could actually create more of a problem it sounds like potentially.

Brad: yes, that is the way that is see it. I see that there could be potentially more injuries especially with the little kids. You want them to be a little bit more protected. With their soft boards I don’t see that they're actually causing any harm to the general project as long as they're not directly in the middle of the flags.

Brendan: tell us a little bit about the I guess the life of a volunteer at the surf club. What do they get up to? How do they get more involved? What sort of things do you have to do?

Brad: to begin with when you join the surf club you have to do a bronze medallion which involves doing some CPR, some rescues and general first aid as well. We’re the first people always on the scene if there's ever an incident or something. They give you enough knowledge that you're able to look after somebody until somebody else comes or if it's only a minor case then you've got the ability to handle most of the situations that come along. You have your bronze medallion for life but every year you need to do a qualifying or re-certification of your swim and some first aid as well just to make sure that you're still current, haven't put too much weight over winter and can’t swim anymore to save somebody. You go through that. If there is any new procedures that have come out so over the time there's been some advances in the resus as well. They often give you a bit of an update on what's happened in the off season as well which is quite handy.

Brendan: the volunteers is quite transient as well. I mean because every time I go down there I do hear English accents and foreign accents. They’ve been fantastic a lot of the travelers wanting to get involved. What is the makeup of the club?

Brad: I’d say the majority of it would be the locals. They’d probably be about 90% locals and there's been a lot of people in the club that I still know that have been there for many years now but we do have a couple that will come from overseas. There’s every opportunity because it’s such a community based and volunteers as well we often promote for other people to come from other countries as well. They do the same hospitality to us. That is not just from overseas. I can walk into any surf club within Australia or anywhere and if I want to borrow a surfboard and use their facilities as well. They’re usually much welcome to do that as well. Not only are you...

Brendan: part of that club. You’re part of the whole network of clubs around the country.

Brad: yes. We often during the competition it can be quite fierce when you go away and you're competing but everyone is good friends after that and you'll make other friends from other clubs as well. You up and down the coast to different beaches and you're competing but then afterwards you'll get together, and stuff like that. The next time if you just go up it's offseason or something like that you’ll run into some of those boys as well and go out for a surf or something.

Brendan: the umbrella organization is Surf Life Saving Australia.

Brad: that is right.

Brendan: do you know how many clubs around the country roughly?

Brad: no, I’m not too sure.

Brendan: they're bound to be thousands I guess.

Brad: yes. Most beaches in Australia have some type of beach club. That is both on the eastern coast and western coast as well. Western Australia has quite a few.

Brendan: I guess because it's based on volunteers how does the club raise money? Do they get funding? Do you know about how they run from an operational point of view?

Brad: not a great deal. We pay a yearly membership. It’s very cheap. It’s only $100 a year to join. I think they get some council support as well. I know when we were funding for our new surf club which came to something like $14 million or something like that just to build the new surf club.

Brendan: it's a pretty good looking surf club. When was that completed? Was that five years ago now?

Brad: yes, about five years ago. Before that we only had a small shack that had been there. Obviously since they built it back in the early 1900s. From then if you wanted to you could donate and to have a tile for any existing long service members. We donated $4000 to that and there was quite a few other long serving members as well that did that. I think the government gave about half the amount of money as well to put into that. I can say it's a good institution. We’re out there week in week out trying to do something for the community. I think the government sees that as a good thing and was willing to help out as well.

Brendan: is the club house like a real central meeting place? Tell us what is in the club? If you're a member or you're a volunteer are you able to use the facilities?

Brad: yes, definitely. As a member you get to go in. Back in the old days they actually had in the old club they had hot showers but you had to put 20 cents in. It would only last probably a minute or two. Everyone had a stack of 20 cent coins but now the new facilities now they've taken that away.

Brendan: it's just regular hot water.

Brad: yes. After coming in on like a cold winter's morning to have a nice hot shower in there is really nice. There’s a bit of a running joke on as such when you're in there as well. When we have this 15 showers that are in the men's area anyway. There’s probably about 40 or Nippers that come in so it's actually age preferenced in there.

Brendan: olders first?

Brad: as soon as the older ones come in the younger ones have to get out. It’s an older preference. The older you are in there and the longer you've been in there you get to have, you kick the Nippers out after a while. They’ll have their time. It’s a bit of a pecking other. It’s stupid fun in there. All the younger kids are always asking each other how old are you to see which ones is going to have to go first. It’s a bit of fun.

Brendan: that is fantastic. How long have you been a member for?

Brad: I’ve been a member of North Bondi since I was 14. I was in Bondi from when I was seven or eight. I went through the Bondi Surf Club. I changed over with my mate Gavin that I said. There was actually four others that were in Bondi as well. We changed over. We just found that the training facilities and the people that were organizing for the North Bondi had a better regime that would suit us going into the senior club as well so pretty much from there. I’ve had quite a few years off as well. I’ve moved away from Bondi for a little while. I took a bit of time out but always touch base and kept in contact with a lot of the guys there.

Brendan: that is fantastic. I’m just going to ask you a few questions about your personally to wrap up today. You told us that you were 46. How many hours sleep do you get a night?

Brad: roughly seven to eight hours sleep a night. I kind of stay up quite late. I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind staying up quite late but then I’m usually up quite early to head off to work. I start work early.

Brendan: what do you do to keep fit?

Brad: I do a bit of surfing when I can. I cycle to work. We usually do either tennis or soccer during lunch time as well. I’ve got a bit on. As summer is coming up now like I said, I’ve got to get a little bit of swim fit as well. I love to go to the pool and do a few sessions in the pool at lunch time as well. It’s probably about a kilometer away. I usually just run up there. Have a quick swim. Get a K in and then come back to work.

Brendan: I also understand you're a bit of a mad skier.

Brad: I do a lot of skiing. That kind of keeps me a little bit fit in winter as well.

Brendan: you've been doing the dash down through Perisher or Thredbo.

Brad: yes, we've been doing to both resorts this year. My son has been competing in Perisher and Thredbo this year. We mainly ski Thredbo, a season ticket for Thredbo but there's been quite a few days that we've been in Perisher just for comps this year as well.

Brendan: do you have any personal goals that you're looking to achieve over the next 12 months?

Brad: not really. I’m quite content where I’m at at the moment. Work’s going really well. I don’t really have much on my side. I set quite a few for my boy. I’m kind of more focused on how he's going and what is happening in that stage.

Brendan: if people are interested in getting involved with Surf Life Saving and becoming a volunteer how would they go about that?

Brad: all you've got to do is to come along to any club in Australia you'll find that most of the people in there are so friendly, will help you out with everything. You join up. When you join up there will be someone there. All the training is free. You’ll learn your resuscitation. If you were to go off to either St. John's or some of the first aid courses you can pay up to probably $500 or $600 just to do a basic first aid course where we do all that for free. We’ll also teach you about the water if you're not too familiar with that. We’ll help you with your swimming and just general first aid as well. There’s been instances where people might come off on the rocks or get a few lucky scrapes or something like that. We’ll teach you how to apply dressings and a few others things as well.

Brendan: okay Brad, thanks very much for taking the time to come on the show.

Brad: thank you.

Brendan: remember everybody if you're enjoying the shows just don’t forget to subscribe and like our podcast wherever you find it. See you next time.

← Older Post Newer Post →