Senior surf lifesavers still making waves

Kent Jarman on patrol

[Photo: Jamie Troughton, DScribe Media]

Kent Jarman has been a surf lifesaver since he was 16, and now at the age of 65, the patrol captain (above) at Mount Maunganui has no intention of giving it away.

The builder, who competes at the Masters and Nationals, will be at the beach again this summer.

“It’s a way of life, there’s a lot of surf life savers in it for life, some of us never leave.”

It keeps him fit and healthy.

“You’re surrounded by young people and that keeps you young and keeps you active. As you get older, there is a bit of respect but they don’t cut you a lot of slack.”

Sid Salek & Denny Enright (r). Photo: Jamie Troughton DScribe Media

Former professional boxer Denny Enright (right) is a surf lifesaver at the Omanu Beach club.

There are 1041 lifesavers who are 50 plus and, of those, 340 are over the age of 65, says Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

With a longer life expectancy, baby boomers are not sitting on the sidelines and expect to be active and very involved in the community.

Denny, 66, first got into surf lifesaving when he shifted to the Bay of Plenty.

“It was a sport I could involve the whole family in, meaning I wasn’t going home feeling selfish about my own time, doing my own thing. I could involve the whole family and feel really happy about my time at the beach so it was great.”

The club patrols 29 kilometres of beach and Denny’s role is to coach the juniors, the Academy squad.

“I like helping the Academy kids who are just learning about the surf, learning how to ride a board, learning confidence in the water, learning that the sea is a living thing - it gets angry, it gets wild, it gets really tame and inviting.

“We teach the kids those sorts of skills and base their training on enjoyment because if young people are enjoying their training, they’re learning, their mind is open. But, if they’ve got a closed mind and put pressure on them, they learn very little.”

When he’s needed, Denny will be on patrol.

“We’ve got an oldies patrol – we do our bit of patrolling when required, especially if they’re busy and short on competition days; there’s a lot of athletes away so sometimes you’re called in.”

Leading by example

Kent Jarman on patrol with Hamish Rieger

[Photo: Jamie Troughton DScribe Media]

As a patrol captain, Kent Jarman is regularly at the beach (patrolling with Hamish Rieger above), one of the country’s busiest during summer.

“I’m a great believer in leading by example.

“We patrol about 2 ½-3 kilometres of coastline so we’re on roving patrols where we use four-wheel drive vehicles and we do that regularly.

“I’ll take rookie guards, in their first season, who are 14 years old, 15 years old, even adults who are taking it up later in life. They don’t have a lot of lifeguarding experience so you take them on a guided tour and talk to them about things to look for on the beach.”

Kent says they take it all on board.

“I’ve had people come back to me later and say, ‘that’s great, I actually learnt quite a bit’.

Sid Salek at Omanu Beach. [Photo: Jamie Troughton DScribe Media]

“When you get to my age, you’ve had a lot of life experiences and it’s good to be able to pass a lot of that on to the younger guards.”

He has learnt from the difficult times in surf lifesaving, and remembers a tragic drowning.

“It was really, really important that a number of us older guys were there to help guide the rest of the guards and deal with the stress that was involved in that.

“I remember taking everyone aside during the search and said, ‘look, this is kind of an emotional time and you’ve got to put your emotions aside and focus on your training.

'Don’t lock them away but work on what you’ve trained for and the skills that you have. Try and keep the emotion out of it until you’ve got time to sit down with your peers and then you can revisit those emotions. If you get too involved in the what ifs and the maybes when you’re trying to do your job, it can overwhelm you’.”

He advised the younger lifeguards not to lock away what happened because that could be self destructive.

“There’s no point going through life if you don’t actually pass on your experiences.”

Giving back a way of life

Denny Enright is at his surf club two nights a week and most days.

“As you journey through life, you get many gifts, talents and skills. You pick that up at no cost to you through hard work, commitment and discipline.

“As you continue on your journey through life, always try to give back to as many people as you can the gifts, talents and skills that you received, and give them back at no cost to them.

“Hopefully when the time comes for you to leave this world, you’ll leave it in a better place prior to your arrival.”

Sid Salek competing at event [photo: Jamie Troughton DScribe Media]

Both lifesavers believe in keeping active to stay healthy and enjoy life.

“I see people stop, they can’t wait to retire, they stop and they almost grow old before your eyes because unless they’ve got a lot of other interests, there’s nothing to stimulate them,” says Kent.

“I think it’s really, really important even for someone who’s led a very sedentary life to exercise because if you’re exercising your body, you’re exercising your mind,” says Denny.

He says he’s not a health freak but it works for him.

“A tough day, mentally tiring, I go to the beach and get in the water and that clears the head, you’ve got a whole different perspective on everything around you… the day’s balanced.

“Our neighbour is 84, he’s out bike riding every single day; walking, going to the gym, the pool, doing something because if you don’t use a muscle you lose it. Use it or lose it.

Denny also works five half days.

“I’ll keep working until they say they want to have a younger guy in the job. I’m not going to sit around and let the dust go following, I’ll find something and do it.

“I only went to school to eat my lunch and play sport but the point I’m trying to make is you can do anything you want to do if you really want to do it. Set your goals and focus on them. Drive your life basically and you’re a better person as a result.”

Kent has spent over 40 years in the building industry.

“I still run a small company, I’m still passing on my experience and my knowledge to the guys that work for me.”

He is also determined to continue as a surf lifesaver.

“I’ve got no intention of pulling the pin. As long as my health and fitness are there, I’m keen to keep going.”

Sid Salek and Denny Enright wide

[Photo: Jamie Troughton DScribe Media]