Life as a lifeguard may not be as dramatic as what one may see on Baywatch, but patrolling the beaches of Sentosa is still serious business, as David Hui can attest.

“What you see on Baywatch is very different from what happens in real life. Sometimes, the casualty doesn’t even get to call for help; you just see some splashing in the distance. As lifeguards, we’ve been trained to pick up signs of a swimmer in distress.

I once had to paddle out of the swimming lagoon to rescue two kids on a kayak who were stranded beyond the designated safe zone. We didn’t know if they could swim, but they were struggling in the middle of the channel because of the strong current. Thankfully, they didn’t jump off their kayak.

I tied the kayak to the tail of my surfboard and paddled us back. As a responder, you will experience an adrenaline rush; but, you need to remember to be calm and have a clear mind. Only then can you take the best course of action.

I can’t remember exactly what happened afterwards, but I think their parents thanked us feverishly. It’s the most beautiful thing when strangers thank you and acknowledge the good work you’ve done. But it’s okay if they don’t. The bottom line is, everyone is safe.

I’ve been a Beach Patrol Officer at Sentosa for 25 years. I can’t deny that I love the sea, but I actually worked part-time as a lifeguard at a swimming pool when I started out. So when I made the transition to open waters, I was shocked at how much I still had to learn.

Depending on the complication, every rescue situation is different. The challenges came in the form of how big, small, sober or intoxicated the casualty is. Is the person struggling? We trained for different scenarios so that we can safely bring people back to land.

To do this job, physical fitness is of paramount importance. Your body has to be sound, and your mind needs to be sharp. Getting the job done is one thing, but getting the job done effectively is another thing. So we’re motivated in our training and continually refine our skills.

Management has been very supportive in that sense. They’ve provided us with anything that helps improve and maintain our health and fitness. We have a gym in the garage. I have a gym membership outside as well, and I work out whenever I can.

I’m 55 this year. Your body does take longer to recover as you grow older, but I’m glad that I can still keep up with the younger ones, even at this age. It’s a blessing to still have my health and continue doing this job.

I do have younger teammates who’ve told me I’m a role model to them. To get their acknowledgement – their endorsement – means I’m doing my job well. Their compliments give me a real boost to keep going.

Do I love my job? Yes, I do love working at Sentosa. We have very long beaches and safe roads. So many triathletes train here, and I recently realised what a blessing it is to access these facilities and perks.

There are many places of interest in Singapore, but the island has such magnetism for locals and overseas guests. I hope to see (overseas) tourists return. And they won’t have to worry because the beach patrol officers will be there should there be any emergencies.” – David, 55

Interview by: Arman Shah