When being a lifeguard is for life

20:07, Sep 01 2014
John Hammond
MORE TO COME: John Hammond’s job as a swimming pool lifeguard has spanned 30 years ... so far.

Thirty years working as a lifeguard has taught John Hammond two things: mates are for life and "shit patrol" is as exciting as it sounds.

Hammond is a lifeguard at the Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre and reckons he will still be there in another 30 years.

"Thirty years from now I will get a zimmer frame out and I'll still be going," he laughed.

For Hammond the work has come with a host of experiences.

"In this job you have got two faces - like Jekyll and Hyde.

"You have a laugh with the staff, and then when you are out working at the pool, you become serious."


Loyalty and friends are the main reasons he stayed in the job, in spite of dealing with the "code brown" incidents.

"Some people call it code brown, I call it shit patrol. People are not toilet trained these days. And I am not talking about just the kids . . . but you take it in your stride."

On a serious note, Hammond said one of the scariest experiences he has had was when a man had a heart attack and died.

"We got him out of the pool and performed CPR, but we lost him. One life was one too many."

He has not kept track of the number of lives he has saved. "It is just what you do. It is all part of the job."

He said he would not have become a lifeguard if it was not for a couple of people who helped along the way.

"Noel Smith taught me how to swim, Paul Jones taught me a lot about life, my parents set up the ground rules, and if it was not for my friends dragging me along to the swimming club all those years ago, I would not be here."

While it's been a rewarding job for Hammond, he said not many people wanted to become a lifeguard.

"It's seven days a week, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. But if you can get used to the hours of work, you can make a lot of friends and get a lot of qualifications."

One of the most valuable lessons he has been taught was "never have tunnel vision or concrete in your boots."

The Press