Port Macquarie teenager Toni Hurkett is loving life as a professional Lifeguard with the Australian Lifeguard Service and has set her sights on another summer protecting beachgoers in her local community.

In 2017 Toni was part of the first training group to be put through their paces with the Little Ripper project an experience which reinforced that the future of lifeguarding is just as much as what happens in the surf but above it as well.

She’s excited by the challenge of keeping fit and the skills and knowledge she has gained from becoming a Lifeguard and wants to encourage other to  take up the challenge.

Surf Life Saving NSW had the opportunity to catch up with this impressive teen and it’s clear that she has a deep-love of the ocean and of helping people.

How long have you been involved as a professional Lifeguard and what initially attracted you to the role?

I’ve been a casual lifeguard in Port Macquarie for 3 seasons now and work on all 6 beaches in our area. I came up through Nippers so lifeguarding seemed like a natural progression as well as a great career opportunity.

Can you describe your prior experiences in Surf Life Saving prior to becoming a Lifeguard?

I have been involved in Surf Life Saving  for 14 years starting in Nippers in the Under 6s. I have continued to compete and do patrols for Port Macquarie SLSC ever since I became eligible to.

What would a typical day at the beach involve for you?

My day begins by arriving a bit before 9am to check all the gear and make sure my partner and I are both ready for the day. Then we set up the beach and chat with the public for a while. Throughout the day we’ll go for a few roving patrols along the beach and try to do a training session at some stage. The flags come down a bit before 5pm and we pack everything away ready to come back and do it all again tomorrow.

Last season you were also heavily involved in The Little Ripper project how was that experience?

I was offered to do the four day course and jumped at the chance. It was a great experience and was really interesting to learn about something completely different to anything I’d ever done before in Surf Life Saving. We (the group I went through with) are doing more training on the drones whenever we can to get our hours up to be able to use them on the beaches as soon as possible.

What skills do you believe are important for a Lifeguard?

Physical fitness is such a major part of the role to ensure we can successfully perform our duty as a Lifeguard but having strong communication skill and good beach management are both also really important to effectively run a beach.

Are there any goals you have set for yourself as your Lifeguard career evolves?

I’m hoping to become a seasonal Lifeguard this season, and I would love to step up to the full time job after doing a few seasons as a casual.

Finally is there any advice you would give to people thinking of following in your footsteps and becoming a Lifeguard?

Go for it! It’s such a rewarding job and there are not too many people who can say they get paid to spend their day at the beach.

Recruitment for the 2017/18 Lifeguard Season is currently underway. For further information about requirements and how you can become part of the Australian Lifeguard Service please visit our jobs page.