Live Learn Survive - Teaching kids water safety with Lifeguard Maxi
Time in or near water can is a much needed release for many of us, especially for children who have just finished the school year! Like many UK families, you’re no doubt looking forward to a well earned holiday at the beach this summer - touring lakes, rivers and pools might also be on the 2022 bucket list if you’re looking for a tranquil summer escape from everyday life.
Getting into the water has risks though. The RLSS reports that a shocking 400 people accidentally drown in the UK and Ireland each year and many of these drownings are a result of a lack of water safety knowledge.
One man who has dedicated his career to helping people in life threatening situations since the age of 16 is Trent Maxwell AKA Lifeguard Maxi.
Appearing as the youngest lifeguard trainee on the award winning Australian TV show Bondi Rescue, Maxi has gone to qualify as a Firefighter for NSW Fire + Rescue and a Qualified Rescue Operator as part of the Heavy Rescue team at the City of Sydney Fire Station. It's now Maxi’s mission to educate kids on water and fire safety through his social enterprise ‘Live Learn Survive’, alongside business partner Leigh Mason.
This month, Maxi is in the UK and Ireland on his fourth ‘Live Learn Survive’ tour to visit RLSS UK Lifesaving Clubs and meet as many children and Rookie Lifeguards as possible to spread water safety awareness. We’re proud to be sponsoring the tour, helping to share this important message.
Ahead of the tour, we spoke to Maxi about his impressive life saving career the tour and the importance of water safety.
You’re the youngest ever professional lifeguard to work at Bondi Beach! What inspired you to become a lifeguard at such a young age?
I always wanted to be a firefighter and I knew lifeguarding could be a stepping stone to realising that dream, and it was. I have the best of both worlds now. I was keen to learn the ropes so I just emailed Hoppo about doing working experience. I did one day a week work experience then they kept me on and I got a full time traineeship. I was 16, the youngest ever and there hasn’t been anyone as young since.
How did your relationship with the RLSS branches in the UK and Ireland come about and why is it important to visit the UK to spread awareness of the Live, Learn, Survive campaign with your business partner Leigh Mason?
Leigh and I first came to the UK together in 2017 and visited a few lifeguard clubs and pools around the South of England that contacted us through social media. We were so inspired by that trip we knew the work we could do so returned to Australia and formed our social enterprise ‘Live Learn Survive’.
It is important to (visit the UK) because the message is the same, wherever you are in the world, I have been given a unique platform and a voice and I intend to use it for good to save lives.
We knew of RLSS as Leigh’s Mum was an RLSS Examiner, Leigh was in a club as a kid. On the 2017 trip one of the clubs we visited ran Rookie Lifeguard - we thought it was a great program so we contacted Head Office to see how we could support it and I have volunteered for them ever since.
Which clubs are you planning to visit in the UK and Ireland and how do you organise the tour?
This tour was ready to go in 2020, about six weeks a go we thought the mood was changing so we reached out to everyone to see if we could pull it together in six weeks to fit around my firefighter annuals and we have.
We get so many requests through social media, this will be our 4th trip and everyone just gets bigger, sadly there are so many clubs we will not be able to get to, our only limitation is time if we are honest, we always need longer.
This trip we are working with Lifeguarding clubs like South Shields Volunteer Lifeguard in South Shields to Lifeguarding Academy’s in Cork Ireland right up to a Community day in Inverurie Aberdeen. We are also working with Surf Life Saving Clubs in Cornwall and in South Wales so we can’t wait to get across now and get onto the beaches and in the pools.
In 2021 you launched Maxi’s Rescue Squad for teens and young adults of all ages to join and learn life saving skills. What are the benefits of becoming part of the squad?
I am very passionate about the Rescue Squad, it’s a global community learning life skills together in a fun safe space, it’s the first of its kind in the world. We are building a community of inspiring young adults, many will be future lifeguards or first responders, and we know how important they have been on the frontline over the last two years.
Each week I do a five minute video, something about water safety, fire safety, first aid or health and wellbeing, hopefully it might inspire an interest and may even spark a new career direction. It is international and we have lifeguards, teachers, carers, parents and kids in over 26 countries now, every month we have a zoom to check in and talk about the lessons and just spread some kindness.
Why is it especially important for children to learn about water safety?
Swimming is a skill, not a fear, you are never too young to learn and become confident in and around water. As children grow up they can learn more skills that not only could save their own life, but that of others too. When I meet kids I talk to them about a few scenarios they can imagine so they hopefully know what to do in an emergency situation on a day when things might go wrong.
We last saw you in the UK back in 2019, with your 2020 tour unfortunately cancelled because of the pandemic. What challenges has the pandemic brought to you guys?
It’s been tough, we lost an entire year's program of school and library visits overnight, as did many organisations.
Anyone who knows Leigh and I knows that doing nothing was not an option, kids were anxious, adults too so we upped our activity on social media to initially just try to be a positive distraction.
We set some challenges, held quizzes and from that the idea for Maxis Rescue Squad came about, the Rescue Squad would simply not have happened without the pandemic.
In hindsight now we used the time wisely, wrote our first picture book, Maxi’s Beach Rescue and worked on our business so we have really firm foundations in place so we can recover quickly. There have been so many swimming lessons missed, skills are not as sharp, that is why I was so keen to get over to visit the UK now, ahead of the summer months.
Congratulations on your award-winning Maxi the Lifeguard book series! What does the book series mean to you?
I am very proud of the books, they are a legacy for future generations and are loosely based on my childhood. I wanted to use my experience as a lifeguard to make it fun and easy for kids to learn about water safety without even realising it.
42 people drown every hour of every day globally and many are preventable - education is key. I am just in the process of having the books translated into Spanish by a Mexican Lifeguard which is incredible.
If the series helps to save even one life, it will all have been worth it. I am especially happy they are embraced by reluctant reader boys, because I was one, it's only as I get older I realise the importance of getting kids to read.
Are there any differences in the life saving skills taught in Australia and the UK?
Some of the things to be aware of are different, one example, cold water shock as one example. The lifesaving, rescue skills and techniques taught though are very similar.
Do you have any plans to return to the UK for future tours?
Yes, of course! To be honest we are just getting started. For every place we are visiting, there is another that we have let down. Everyone always makes me so welcome. Whilst ever the UK and Ireland want me and there are lessons to learn and lifeguards to train, I will be back!
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