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RNLI Senior Lifeguard Zeph Palmer

'I enjoy training, learning new skills and meeting people.'

RNLI Senior Lifeguard Zeph Palmer in a lifeguard tshirt smiling at a sandy beach

Photo: RNLI

RNLI Senior Lifeguard Zeph Palmer

Can you give me a brief description of your job?

We make sure the public are safe. Our work is mainly preventative. We train during quieter days, while on busier days we're entirely focused on lifeguarding. As a senior lifeguard, I'm organising a team of four lifeguards and I supervise the running of a beach lifeguard unit, ensuring that the RNLI lifeguard service is efficient. I coordinate everything that happens on the beach, such as where the kit is placed to any incidents or emergency rescues that might happen. 

How was the training for senior lifeguards? 

The training took place at the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, and it’s called the Operational Leadership course. It's a good course where you learn a lot from general leadership to lifeguarding specific leadership and it provides the skills required for senior RNLI lifeguards to carry out their role. 

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?

I like the responsibility of keeping people safe, and the diversity of the job suits me well. I enjoy training, learning new skills, and meeting people. I also like spending time with the other lifeguards because it’s fun, and that's a good motivator. 

What are you most excited about?

I'd say fitness is my passion. And that's a massive part of lifeguarding too. We allow a lot of time to train. I've also got a gym set up at home, which I use a lot. I often do fitness at work, meaning lifeguard specific fitness, and then I'll also have my workouts in the evenings or mornings.

What led you to this job?

I was a tree surgeon before I joined the RNLI. One of my best friends did a season as a lifeguard with the RNLI, and he suggested that I should come too. I said: 'Yeah, why not?' And here I am after 5 years.

What attracted you to work for the RNLI?

I've always heard about the RNLI, but I didn't really see any RNLI crew because I didn’t grow up close to the coast. But as soon as I started working with the RNLI, I realised how great an organisation they are. I haven't met anyone within the charity that I wouldn't get on with.

Can you tell us about a memorable rescue?

It was a busy day. Here at Littlehampton, a very fast current goes into the river Arun into the estuary. So my colleague, Sam,   went out on the rescue board to advise people to get away from the river, including three young girls. As he turned around to speak with other people, the girls instantly got swept into the river.

Sam quickly secured them, and they all safely held on to the board. But as that was happening, their mum swam to try to rescue them because she panicked. Fortunately, she managed to grab hold of the board too. Then, another colleague and I launched the inshore rescue boat to grab them. So, we got all four of them in the boat and quickly brought them back to safety.

How do you make sound decisions in emergencies like this?

Training is very important. The more you can run training scenarios and gain experience on the job, you're much more level-headed and able to think clearly and quickly.

What are the skills you must have to be a lifeguard?

I would say being physically fit is important. Anyone can work on that, so this is something you can improve with time. I also believe having the RNLI core values - which are selfless, dependable, trustworthy and courageous - is significant. They are the most important things in doing our work.

What are you looking forward to?

To make the most out of this season because it will probably be my last, although I don't want it to be. But I'm planning to join the Royal Marines, and I would be excited if that materialised. I'm looking forward to helping the new lifeguards hone their skills and getting the best out of the team.

How has lifeguarding helped your career prospects?

Lifeguarding helps me in several ways. It allows me to train at work to stay fit and build the fitness levels required to join the Royal Marines. The hard work on the busy days and getting out training in bad weather have prepared me for challenging environments. Many of the skills I acquired in lifeguarding will help me further my career.

Looking for your next great opportunity? Find out more about becoming a lifeguard