National Volunteer Week profile: St Clair Surf Life Saving Club chairman Cam Burrow says there’s a place for everyone who wants to help save lives

Posted by Administrator on Thursday, June 20, 2019

Cam Burrow loves the sea and spending time at the beach with mates during lifeguard training and patrols as a volunteer surf lifeguard – he also loves the fulfillment that comes from a rescue, and seeing his hard work successfully guide his organisation to grow stronger.

Giving your time back to your community to help make it better is one of the undervalued secrets to a satisfying life, he reckons. With huge paybacks for the volunteer.

“We can always say we’re busy, in our own lives, but if we all say that, then none of those organisations we want will be there for us when we need them.”

Surf Life Saving NZ has 74 clubs throughout the country, receives no government funding, and relies on donations and volunteers, to run summer patrols, and all-year-round training and emergency response services.

From July 2018 to now, surf lifeguards have rescued 697 people in trouble in the water nationwide. And St Clair lifeguards carried out 4 of those rescues.

Cam joined the Nippers surf lifesaving children’s programme when he was about 11 years old, with his friends, and later trained to become a lifeguard.

At 15 years old he was asked to join the governance committee at St Clair Surf Life Saving Club, to represent the younger cohort of lifeguards. He realised he enjoyed seeing the impact that behind-the-scenes decisions made for the club’s development.

Last year, at 22-years-old, he stepped up to become the chairman of the club, and has now become chairman of a group for all of the Otago and Southland SLSNZ clubs, too.

And Cam says he still enjoys the time working alongside his mates on regular summer patrols, at training and during emergency call-outs.

“I just love the water, being in the water - even though Dunedin has some of the coldest water in the country.

“But I just love spending all that time in the water with your friends, doing something good.”

He says Surf Life Saving NZ is a great organisation to be part of, he has made friends throughout the country because of it, and clubs are always keen to have more volunteers.

“You don’t have to be the fastest swimmer or the best runner to be a good lifeguard, surf lifesavers offer so many things, through communication with the public and vigilance, first aid and coordinating with other rescue agencies.

“Or on the administration side of things, there’s so much you can get out of it, and there’s so much need for different talents and approaches - there’s endless limits to what you can achieve. We are quite a welcoming organisation, and we do have a need for everyone.”

And there are untold development opportunities.

“A lot of it is good skills for every-day life. I’m an accountant, and I use a lot of the skills I developed through surf lifesaving, every day.

Volunteering for the club has developed his leadership, communication and listening skills, knowledge about how organisations work and how to go about making changes.

Lifeguards become experts at quick thinking, vigilance and foresight, problem solving, working together as a team in high pressure situations - as well as the lifeguarding techniques and first aid they use in rescues.

Many have dramatic stories of bringing their surf lifesaving skills to other situations, such as first aid at car crashes or accidents in the home, spotting emergency situations developing and raising the alarm, or helping rescue four people stranded in floodwaters outside Dunedin in 2017.

Burrow says he’s proud of his club, and the developments it has made recently under his leadership.

“It’s really satisfying to see the work you put in produce good outcomes, and achieve something valuable.

“Time’s a valuable thing, and if you can give your time to help others it not only helps so many others, it rewards you too.”

** Cam's story is one of a series celebrating Surf Life Saving NZ volunteers for National Volunteer Week (June 16 -22).


File photos for Surf Life Saving NZ can be found here.

For more information, please contact:

Cam Burrow, St Clair Surf Life Saving Club chairman
Phone: 027 8925809 Email

Surf Life Saving NZ media and communications
Phone: 021 636 647 Email:

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