Meet Dean: Volunteering to Shape the Future of Surf Life SavingFriday, 23 June 2023
For Dean Le Warne, the ocean cures most things. “There’s nothing quite like it”, he declares.
This strong connection began during Dean’s teenage years and has since grown into a meaningful life of volunteer work at North Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) in Christchurch.
His journey as a volunteer started nine years ago when North Beach SLSC found itself in need of someone to take over the Junior Surf Programme. Stepping up to the plate Dean recalls, “No one else was going to do it, so I just put my hand up, and it snowballed from there.”
And snowball it did. Today, Dean wears multiple hats within the club, jokingly remarking, “It would probably be quicker if I told you what I’m not involved in!” Among his diverse roles are club captain, junior surf coordinator, coach, examiner, instructor, Surf Official, and peer supporter. He’s also head of the club’s search and rescue squad, and sits on the regional local lifeguard committee.
Of all his volunteer work, Dean finds his involvement with the juniors to be the most rewarding. When he initially brought his two children to the club, there were only 23 junior members. However, after proactively reaching out to local schools and sports clubs, Dean and his team managed to attract more members. “We’ve now got nearly 200 juniors and we have a good amount of volunteer parents too. We can’t do it without their help.”
As these juniors develop and learn water skills, many of them qualify to become Surf Lifeguards, and Dean said witnessing this journey and seeing them on the beach in the iconic red and yellow uniform is incredibly satisfying. “It’s pretty cool seeing them turn up initially as six year olds, and here they are now, 14 years old and jumping in an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) with me.”
The feedback from parents also keeps him volunteering with many approaching him at the end of the season to express their thanks and remark at how confident their children have become. Dean adds, “The parents change too. At the beginning, they’re normally really nervous sitting on the beach, and then, four sessions later, we’ve got them in wetsuits out in the water, and they’re fully into it!”
Through his volunteering, Dean has gained a deeper understanding of people’s lives and challenges. His involvement as a Surf Life Saving peer supporter has exposed him to the many difficulties faced by children, particularly in Christchurch, where they’ve endured devastating earthquakes and the mosque attacks. “It’s so cool to have peer supporters that care, and that kids and parents can come and talk to us.”
When Dean isn’t wearing one of his many volunteer hats, he works as the South Island manager for a pipe valve fitting company. Juggling his professional responsibilities with his voluntary work keeps him busy, and Dean is quick to acknowledge the invaluable support of his wife, Keeley. “My wife is also a Surf Lifeguard and is the lifeguard manager at the club too, so it’s really a team job. I’ve also got a lot of great people around me at the club that just help out.”
It’s this shared sense of purpose that makes it all work. “We’re all there for the same reason, and we’re just having fun.”
As long as he continues to have fun Dean said he can’t envision himself giving up his voluntary work anytime soon. The ocean serves as his sanctuary, and he remains committed to sharing its healing power with as many people as possible.
To learn more about SLSNZ, its surf lifesaving services, and how you can support or become a volunteer, visit surflifesaving.org.nz