North Shore Underground: It Ain’t Surfing, But It’s A Living

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It's not a Pipe tube, but it's not a cubicle. Mikey's desk and corner office. Photo: Jeff Flindt


North Shore Underground

Last week, while his peers were hounding Oahu’s north swell, Mikey Bruneau wasn’t surfing. He wasn’t even on the North Shore. He wasn’t even standing up. Mikey was at work as a City & County lifeguard, possibly the best island-side gig a water person can realistically hope to land. We asked Mikey to describe the why and how of going Hasselhoff.


Mikey Bruneau:

So, I always thought I wanted to be a lifeguard after this whole surfing thing started slowing down — of course, if I had the choice, surfing would never slow down! Ha. But let’s be real here, unless you’re some kind of freak it’s not gonna happen. So lifeguarding seemed to be the next best fit for me. The ocean is all I really know anyway. You get to help people, which is a good feeling, and best of all I still get to go surfing while I work! So it was a no-brainer.

It was a pretty long process just to even try out. We had to have all our first aid and CPR cards, diploma — which I had to go dig up at my mom’s house — and a few other things, I can’t even remember them all. After they check all that we do a 1000-yard run 1000-yard swim in under 25 minutes, 100/100/100-yard run-swim-run in under three minutes, then a 400-yard paddle in under four minutes. All attainable for sure, but you gotta hustle if you want to beat those times. One hundred guys tried out for only 14 spots, so I was really fortunate to get one.

Then the hard part begins — school! All over again, five days a week from 8 to 5, a four-week program, can’t miss one day or you’re out. Back to studying every night and a test every day. Also, this was in Town and I live on the North Shore. Over an hour and a half drive each way with the traffic. Going from surfing every day and traveling for eight years to this was a pretty hard transition. But I did it! The first two weeks was all book work, boring classroom stuff. But at the same time very important medical things we needed to learn. The last two weeks were pretty cool — our teachers made up real-life scenarios to see if we could handle them and do everything right. From pulling an unconscious victim out of slamming Sandy Beach shorebreak to jumping off a 60-foot cliff into churning angry water to grab a guy that slipped off the cliff, getting them to the beach with our fins and tube, then performing CPR while calling an ambulance and getting him secured on a back board. Not gonna lie, I had a hard time doing it and am very happy it’s over. All in all a very educational class that taught me a lot more that what I thought life guards did and knew. I’m way stoked I completed the class.

So now I’ve only been in for a week, but have worked a few days and love it. I was lucky enough to get a day at Waimea Bay already. When you first get started, everyone has to start in Town and pay their dues, which I’m doing, but just got lucky with a North Shore day. We get two one-hour breaks throughout the day to do whatever, and of course I go surfing if there are waves. If no waves, we usually do some training. Run, swim, sit-ups push-ups, all that good stuff.

I really enjoy it. I’m not gonna make a million dollars, but at least I’m still living the million-dollar lifestyle.