Better known as Louie, the father-of-two has recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as a lifeguard – a job he says is super rewarding and balances well with family life.
Louie’s face will be familiar to many Wellington City Council pool users, especially those who frequent Karori Pool and Kilbirnie’s Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre.
Over the years, he has ensured countless kids and adults stay safe in the water, including rescuing a young girl off the bottom of a 5metre-deep pool, and has worked as a swim instructor.
“A lot of the time it’s a pretty cruisy job – but when it’s on, it’s on!”
He says teaching children to swim has been a highlight.
“That’s been really positive – having the parents come to me and say things like ‘my child is now confident to put their face under water’ – helping people’s children thrive in the water and learn a valuable skill.”
Louie’s career at the pools began when he was about 33, following a frightening experience.
“Before I was a lifeguard, me and my wife had a pizza shop in Lower Hutt. One night we got a large order for about $300-worth of pizza. I went to deliver them and couldn’t find the address – it had been a fake order.
“I got back to my shop and it was surrounded by police cars. A group wearing balaclavas had pinned my wife to the ground with a weapon while they took money from the till. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt, but that was it for the shop – we shut up and left.”
Louie had been out of work for about five weeks when a job advert in the paper caught his wife’s attention.
“She said, ‘what about being a lifeguard?’ I went for it, and I’m still here,” he laughs.
“I was quite nervous when I first started out. I thought I was a good swimmer, but I did the test and I wasn’t quite up to speed. They said go away, swim hard, and then come back.”
Louie says he works with “awesome” people and the job has been flexible, allowing him to earn a living while also being there for his sons, now aged 13 and 15.
“It’s been a really good balance between working and staying home with the kids. It’s been easy to get leave and swap shifts.
“I also love the way this job just keeps me fit – I’m surrounded by motivating people – it keeps me young for my boys.”
A Karori resident, Louie is a keen mountain biker, surfer, and ocean swimmer.
He says it’s been “the people and the management” that have kept him in the job for 25 years, and he has no plans to leave anytime soon.
Karori Pool Operations Manager Parrish Evans says Louie is popular with customers, a pleasure to work with, and an asset to the team.
“Everyone loves him. He’s super friendly, always welcoming, he’s a genuine guy. He’s got a good attitude and good energy.”
Parrish encourages Wellingtonians to get out and enjoy their local pool.
“The lifeguards are always happy to talk and build a rapport with our customers. That’s what makes these pools really unique.”