Jumping out of helicopters, surf lifesaving and rock swims

Haven’t been able to post for a few days, in part due to the fact my hands were shredded after a wild day of training last week (and a short little vacation out of town over the weekend!).

I don’t have all the videos/pictures yet as I’m trying to gather them up from a few sources but as part of our helicopter rescue training we got the opportunity to work with the local surf lifesaving squads to do some static line rescues at Muriwai beach!

Muriwai Beach

What this involves is flying out over the surf in the helicopter. The pilot then lowers the helicopter down to somewhere between 10-15 feet above the water. The issue is that obviously too low and a wave will cause serious havoc if it catches the chopper (I only realized this once we were out there…probably a good thing)! The crewman sits in the open door and helps you outside. The goal is to time your jump into the water so that you land on the high part of a swell. Failing to do so could increase your jump by another 10-15ft or more depending on the swells!

Lucky for me (and my reluctance to engage in considerable acts of jumping from high places), the swells were fairly calm. Before we knew it, we were all decked out in wetsuits and fins and aboard the chopper for our jumps. Each group had two people, so one was a rescuer and one was a rescuee…not sure if I was chosen to be a rescuee based on my “holy sh&^” expression on my face that day but I guess they felt that I would likely need a rescue! There’s a standard procedure of taps on the knee, then two on the back as you exit the helicopter by the crewman who guides you out. As I got out on the helicopter skid looking down, it was a bit more hectic than I had imagined! I’m fairly certain I had to get a few more taps on my shoulder (then previously planned) to tell me to jump but I made the plunge! Turned out ok! I was still alive! The amount of spray kicked up by the helicopter is crazy…I felt again like I was GI Joe! The paramedic in charge of my “rescue” got in shortly after. He secured me up to the 30-40ft rope that is dropped down from the helicopter and we got carried about 50 feet in the air to shore where we landed very nicely on the beach. Huge thanks to the ARHT flight crew (crewman and pilots), and my rescuer (Chris Deacon) for getting that all done. Was a great session! I’ve attached a video from 2 years ago from our helicopters doing a static line rescue training – it was very similar to what we did last week so this will give you a great idea.

Afterwards we headed out on the jetskis with the surf lifesaving guys. These guys have an awesome job and are super skilled! I got to hold on for dear life on this boogie board attached to the back of the jetski while we practiced  water rescues! Absolutely awesome and a huge amount of respect for how they do their job – not easy managing massive surf while looking for drowning victims! Here’s a few pics as we were getting ready.

Getting an explanation from the surf rescue paramedic how to stay in (and not fall out) of the inflatable rescue boat

Jetski loaded up on the quad – responds to rescues asap all over the beach

“boogie” board folded up on the jetski. when in use, it folds down (which is where I was lying on, holding on to the sides) during our practice rescues. Victims are pulled onto the board with a rescuer beside them. Driver remains on the jetski.

Finally, last but not least, was the rock swim. I’m hoping to get some video footage this week so I’ll save the rest of the post, but definitely pushed my aquatic limits with this! Scrapped my hands to shreds and a few hectic moments! Though definitely huge thanks to the surf lifesaving guys who swam with me the whole way – as one of the guys told me just before I was about to jump into the crashing waves, “no better time to do this then when you have 20 surf rescue life guards with you!”…sweet!

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