“…It’s not were you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when your part of something, and if you find that moment it lasts forever.”
Like most small communities, especially those in secluded places, there exists a culture of secrecy. An innate desire to protect and maintain a way of life. For those select few who live on Castaway Cay the same rules apply,
“what happens on the island, stays on the island.”
That age old excuse not to talk about something you wish to hide. What happens day to day in the eyes of the guests is no secret. But once the sun has set, the island is our own. That’s just the way it is and who am I to rock the boat. Now that I’m a part of this community I can appreciate why it’s so important to withhold the few remaining treasures of island life. But my time on this island has been such a rich experience that it’s worth sharing at least a snippet.
Looking back, it seems as though everything I’ve done over the last few years was leading up to this experience. It’s as though the lifeguarding skills I was picking up and the lifestyle I was living were gearing me up to be a Castaway lifeguard. Growing up I inherited my Granddad’s obsession with the water. He taught me to swim at a young age and it’s a skill that has taken me on some amazing adventures. Lifeguarding pools, water parks, lakes and now the ultimate progression to beaches. Not bad for a boy from Wigan who’s only possibility for open water swimming as a kid was when I fell in the brook.
Arriving on the island is a shock to the system. It’s so far from real life in both distance and lifestyle. The island is a close community, set in its ways. It runs at its own pace and off its own clock. For someone new it takes some getting used to. Proving yourself on the island is the first step, showing you are up to the task and willing to work is vital if you are ever to be accepted. I was blown away by the island’s Bahamian beauty. Turquoise blue lagoons, pristine sandy beaches and tall swaying palms. It’s everything you imagine a castaway island would be. Once you’ve lived here for even a few days you come to realise that this island paradise doesn’t just maintain itself. Like Castaway islands from the movies there is always that group of people who make the island their own. Build a life, a working community and a home. It’s the same with Castaway Cay, granted it is not an abandoned island and we are not victims of a tragic plane crash. But the people of Castaway make it what it is. The whole community from the Island Manager to the lifeguards pull together everyday to run and maintain the island! It’s a community built on different genders, races, cultures and personalities merged together to create what undoubtedly is a whole new culture in itself. The lifeguards are not just lifeguards we are island caretakers. During the day we lifeguard the beaches but behind closed doors our mornings, evenings and Mondays are spent working hard to prepare the island for our guests. We perform tasks that we might resent anywhere else in the world. Shovelling seaweed, maintaining predator nets, straightening sun beds, thankless tasks which the lifeguards take so much pride in. At the end of the day it’s our island as much as the guests and we are proud everyday to show it off!
Our lifeguard team consists of members from all over the world. South Africans, Australians, Serbians, Americans, Canadians, English, Portuguese, Hungarian and Sri Lankan. It’s a wonderful merging of cultures, ideas, skills and personalities. In experiences like this the diversity is essential for personal growth. If I arrived on the island with a group of pie eaters from Wigan, what would I learn. Now I’ve worked alongside some elite guards with years of experiences on some of the worlds most challenging and dangerous beaches. I thought I had grown up around water but in reality I was in the safe haven of a calm pool with nothing that wants to eat you swimming in it! In terms of lifeguarding the ocean I was light years behind these guys and girls. But you learn, often the hard way. Sometimes it’s the best way to learn. My paddling skills on a rescue board improved, as did my rescue skills. Everyday I learnt more about the tides and the marine life. It can be a baptism of fire, but it’s better to be burnt as you learn than blow torched in a real situation.
There are tough days were the constraints of routine wear you down, were the monotony of a task makes you want to bury your head in the sand. It’s at these times you need to free your mind of the immediate task and take in the whole picture. We spend our days wearing sunglasses. They darken the islands natural colours and take away that bright brilliance that the island radiates. I look forward to the end of everyday when I can take off my sunglasses. The grey tint that has aided my vision all day is removed and the true beauty and colour of the island is unleashed. The day suddenly seems brighter. The task ahead is suddenly not so daunting. The sunglasses are a metaphor for my entire time on the island. There are times when a day doesn’t go my way, I’m tired, run down or frustrated. All it takes is a step back, a removal of the shades and a look around at were I am. I Basque in the brilliant sunsets, curl my toes in the warm sand or drink from fresh coconuts. Life’s better without the dull restraints of a tired mind! Without the sunglasses, it’s filled with bright thoughts, ideas and appreciation of your surroundings, the nature and the people. Life is better without the worries of tomorrow and an appreciation of the now. It’s the realisation that I’ve found that moment, the moment my heart jumps and I realise that in a weird way I’m fulfilling a dream by shovelling a pile of seaweed. It’s then that you have that one moment you’ll never forget, because if your happy shovelling seaweed, then life is pretty sweet! As I always say, life’s better in board shorts!