Advertisement

Huntington Beach City Junior Lifeguards raising money for New Zealand exchange

Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Liam Timmermans and his mother Stacie talk to Samantha Dieterman.
Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Liam Timmermans and his mother, Stacie, left, talk to program coordinator Samantha Dieterman at Huntington Surf & Sport on Thursday.
(Matt Szabo)
Share

The Huntington Beach City Junior Lifeguards will soon patrol the sand again this summer.

The Junior Guards program, which is run through the fire department‘s Marine Safety Division and teaches younger kids and teenagers about ocean safety, launches on June 24 and continues through mid-August. Lifeguards and their families picked up uniforms outside of Huntington Surf & Sport downtown on Thursday and Friday.

When the holidays come, though, a lucky group of 25 of the Junior Guards will be hitting the beach far, far away.

Huntington Beach is resuming its exchange program with New Zealand this year for the first time since 2019. The program was established in 1979 and typically runs every three years.

Advertisement

“We did it in 2019, and the team came home in January of 2020, right before they closed down the world,” Junior Lifeguard program coordinator Samantha Dieterman said. “After that, we didn’t continue the program. We’re getting it restarted.”

Taylor Bartlett, center, and Hanna Gergen, right, check in Junior Lifeguards and their families on Thursday.
Taylor Bartlett, center, and Hanna Gergen, right, check in Junior Lifeguards and their families at an equipment sale Thursday at Huntington Surf & Sport.
(Matt Szabo)

A group of Piha and Tairua Surf Lifesaving Club members from New Zealand will hit Surf City on July 7 and stay with Huntington Beach families, while teaching the local Junior Guards about their lifesaving techniques and learning culture.

In December — which is summer in New Zealand — the Huntington Beach Junior Guards will head to New Zealand for nearly three weeks, staying with the Kiwi families as part of the swap.

The 25 Huntington Beach Junior Guards in the program will range from 14 to 17 years old. They had to go through an application process last summer, including an interview and submitting recommendation letters, before they found out they made the New Zealand travel team last September.

“It’s a whole lifeguard teaching thing, but it’s also a culture thing,” said Grant Brehm, 24, a former standout swimmer at Huntington Beach High who is a Junior Guards program graduate as well as one of several coaches going on the trip. “We’ll see how they live. It’s a training trip, but it’s also about experiencing a different culture for both teams.”

Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Ethan Brown shows off a pair of Yucca fins on Thursday at Huntington Surf & Sport.
Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Ethan Brown shows off a pair of Yucca fins he was set to purchase on Thursday at Huntington Surf & Sport.
(Matt Szabo)

The youngsters are trying to raise $125,000 to go on the trip in December. So far, they’re at about $30,000, Dieterman said. A 5K was held last weekend to raise funds, as well as a haunted house last Halloween at the Marine Safety Training Center. The kids will be selling T-shirts this summer, as well as profit-makers like a Fourth of July fireworks.

“The big thing is for the kids to get out there and try to work hard to get to the trip,” Dieterman said. “It’s not just like, you’re on the team and now pay this chunk of money. It’s more like, here’s the team, now let’s all try to raise money together.”

Ethan Brown, 14, is one of the Junior Guards in the New Zealand group. Ethan is finishing up eighth grade at Spring View Middle School and will be a freshman at Huntington Beach High in the fall. He plays water polo for Vanguard Aquatics.

Ethan, who picked up a nice pair of Yucca fins at Huntington Surf & Sport on Thursday, said he’s never been out of the country but is excited for this opportunity.

“I like to do adventures,” he said, adding that he’s talked to a couple of the New Zealand lifeguards and they said they’re excited to experience culture in California.

Ethan’s mom, Deborah, is a biology teacher at Fountain Valley High.

“I’ve taken kids around the world on trips,” she said. “When he heard about this, I was like, ‘You should do it!’ I think it’s fantastic, a great opportunity.”

Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards and their families choose equipment outside of Huntington Surf & Sport on Thursday.
Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards and their families choose equipment outside of Huntington Surf & Sport on Thursday.
(Matt Szabo)

Liam Timmermans, 13, is a seventh-grader at Huntington Christian School who will be one of younger Junior Guards on the New Zealand trip. He’s also an only child.

“If I was just sending him out with anybody, I’d probably be nervous, but he’s going with an amazing group of individuals,” said Stacie Timmermans, Liam’s mom. “We feel no hesitation about sending him with that group.”

Liam plays several sports and has also been effective in spreading the word about Hands-Only CPR, teaching nearly 200 people the technique last year. He said Junior Guards teaches him about ocean safety and discipline, as well as respecting everyone.

“This will be my fourth year,” he said. “I like being with friends during the summer and doing activities, staying active.”

Liam has been out of the country “but not that far,” traveling to the Bahamas.

“I’m very excited and happy I could be selected,” he said. “I have one friend from my school, and a few other friends that I knew from Junior Guards last year that are going.”

That enthusiasm is ringing throughout the program, Dieterman said, noting that the kids are also happy to host their counterparts from New Zealand as well.

“They’re coming over to us in their winter, and we’re going to them in our winter,” she said. “It actually works out. It’s like an endless summer.”

The red shorts are an important part of a Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard's outfit.
The red shorts are an important part of a Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard’s outfit.
(Matt Szabo)
Advertisement