Experience Down Under prepared rookie well for the job

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Tye Cameron, 23, of Australia guards the beach at Buttercup Road in Wildwood Crest. Tye Cameron, 23, of Australia guards the beach at Buttercup Road in Wildwood Crest.

A native of Australia, Tye Cameron of the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol is sometimes the brunt of stereotypical jokes about the Land Down Under.

While Cameron was walking onto the beach to get his photograph taken for this story, a fellow lifeguard yelled, “Hey Tye, don’t you need your boomerang for the picture?”

But the jokes are well-mannered and serve as an example that the 23-year-old who has traveled halfway across the world to become a lifeguard in Wildwood Crest has quickly become one of the guys.

“I really like the people,” Cameron said. “The people here at the WCBP feel like family to me. They’ve taken me in, which I love.”

A native of Southwest Rocks, a beach town on the northeast coast of Australia, Cameron was encouraged to come to the States by a friend. A schoolteacher for three years and a lifeguard for six back home, he left his jobs to travel here to become a beach lifeguard.

Although experienced, Cameron did not find it particularly easy to land a job with the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, since beach patrol chief Bud Johnson was reluctant to hire him over qualified American candidates. But when not enough of them passed the required physical conditioning tests, a door opened for the outgoing, easy-to-like Aussie.

“In the two months leading up before I came here for the tryout I was ringing Chief Johnson’s phone off the hook,” Cameron said. “I showed some persistence because I was trying to show him how much I wanted the job. He told me he honestly didn’t know if it was going to work out but that I could come to the tryout. I wanted the job bad, so I knew I had to show him everything I had and try to impress him.”

Cameron, a former competitive surfer in Australia who still dabbles in the sport, passed the tryout with flying colors.

Although technically a rookie to the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, Cameron performs his duties like the seasoned pro he is.

“He’s been terrific for us, a good team member and a real personable guy,” Johnson said. “He fit right in with team. He did a great job in rookie school, and even though he had a lot of experience he was very open to the way we do things and the system we use here. He’s open to everything and he’s absorbed everything.”

Johnson said Cameron impressed him from beginning with his preparation, maturity and attention to detail.

“Looking back, I’m glad he was persistent and I’m glad we gave him the opportunity. It’s worked out for us, and it seems to have worked out for him, too.”

Cameron sits at Stand 2 in the Crest, which serves the Buttercup Road beach area at the north end of town.

He said there are some differences between lifeguarding here and in Australia.

“Our waves are definitely much bigger,” he said. “I’d say 90 percent of the days here are probably 10 percent of what we get back home. Every day at home we have rescues, and the adrenaline is always pumping. This isn’t as intense here but it’s not like it’s relaxing. Even on a day when there’s no waves there’s always a chance something serious can happen.”

Cameron’s surfing background led him to become a part of the patrol’s competitive team in lifeguard races this summer. He has finished in the top three in the rescue board races in a pair of major competitions.

“I’m just used to paddling,” he said. “When I was a kid growing up I was always in the water and I did a lot of paddling, I guess I built some strength in there and even though I’m not really surfing anymore I’m still pretty good at paddling.”

Cameron, who graduated from Southern Cross University with a bachelor’s degree in education, isn’t in too much of a hurry to return home. If he decides to go back to teaching, he won’t have to be back until February of 2012, when the next school year in Australia begins. His visa is good through March 2012.

“I’d like to stay here working as long as I can and then take off and continue traveling for a little bit,” he said. “I’d like see a lot of the East Coast and then make my way back to San Diego before I have to go home. But I also wouldn’t mind trying to lifeguard in different places around the world, either.”

If he makes it to other places to lifeguard, Cameron might have to endure some more jokes about his native land.

“Ah, it’s all in good fun,” Cameron said with a laugh. “I get asked about kangaroos and all the Crocodile Dundee stuff. But the worst thing is when people come up and ask me if I drink Foster’s,” the widely advertised Aussie beer. “Because I don’t know one Australian who does.”

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