Cloverdale’s Graham Esplen is greeted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace during a Nov. 21 visit. Espen was one of 20 Canadian lifeguards invited to attend.

Cloverdale’s Graham Esplen is greeted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace during a Nov. 21 visit. Espen was one of 20 Canadian lifeguards invited to attend.

Royal visit for Cloverdale lifeguard

A high school teacher from Cloverdale was one of 20 lifeguards personally invited to the Buckingham Palace by the Royal Family.

Not many Canadians can say they were personally invited to the Buckingham Palace by the Royal Family.

Graham Esplen, a high school teacher from Cloverdale, is still awestruck from the experience.

“I keep looking back going, holy smokes, that really happened,” he told Peace Arch News last week.

The royals celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Royal Life Saving Society by inviting 125 citizens from the commonwealth with long-term lifeguarding experience.

Esplen was one of 20 lifeguards selected from Canada, seven of which were from B.C.

A history and literature teacher at Langley’s Brookswood Secondary, Esplen said he was overwhelmed by the opportunity “to walk up to the Buckingham Palace gates and show your passport and the Bobbies open the gate.”

“They held it in what they call their picture room, which is their art collection. I’m looking up at a wall with 10 Rembrandts on it. Or the portrait of Charles the First, which is in the social studies textbook at school. It’s quite incredible.”

Each guest was given an opportunity to talk to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

“She talked about how she did her bronze medallion when she was 13, which is neat because my kids are doing their bronze medallion right now at the Surrey pool. Each member of the family, there were six there, they all came around and took the time to chat with everyone,” he said.

The event took place Nov. 21, which is the day after Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s 69th wedding anniversary.

“(Queen Elizabeth) is amazing, it’s quite shocking how petite she is, but at 90-years-old, and Prince Philip is 95, they had all of us over to their house basically, on a (Monday) night. They were wonderful hosts. They were funny, Prince Philip is a very funny man and he talked about how he loves Vancouver.”

Esplen said he was given the opportunity through a selection process conducted by the Canadian Lifesaving Society. The organization put forward a list of names to Prince Michael of Kent, the president of the Royal Life Saving Society. Prince Michael selected the 125 guests.

Esplen has been working and volunteering as a lifeguard for the past 25 years. He started lifeguarding when he was in his early 20s, and spent years competing in lifeguarding competitions. After he started teaching high school, he continued to lifeguard in the summer months.

“It’s a great summer job.”

He eventually became an instructor, then an instructor trainer, and about eight years ago he was asked to sit on the national committee to revise the lifeguard training program. He said his background in curriculum building helped that process.

“We rebuilt it, retested it, piloted it and released the new program a number of years ago.”

Now, he’s the national leadership chairman of that committee.

He’s been working with the committee to rebuild the instructor programs.

“What should every lifesaving instructor across Canada be able to do? Coming to a consensus is quite a challenge when you’re a huge country like this. It’s been an amazing experience working with people across the country developing a program.”

Prince Michael approved a special anniversary edition of his Certificate of Merit. The award is made to individuals whose voluntary contribution and achievements have impacted the society and it’s work, or represented the society in an exemplary way.

“You never in a million years think that volunteering for something you really love and care about all of a sudden takes you to the Buckingham Palace.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

Brandon Nathan Teixeira, charged in connection with a fatal 2017 shooting in South Surrey, is to return to court Feb. 2, 2021. (Canadian Press/File photo)
Pre-trial conference set for accused in 2017 South Surrey killing

Brandon Nathan Teixeira set to return to Vancouver court Feb. 2

Construction on the main foyer at the soon-to-be opened Clayton Community Centre. (Photo courtesy of HCMA Architecture + Design)
Clayton Community Centre opening delayed again

City says Provincial Health Order reason for latest delay

North Surrey Minor Football players in action. The club is among Surrey-area recipients of the B.C. government’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (File photo)
COVID ‘relief’ funding for some sports groups in Surrey, White Rock, Delta

‘Without financial support, these clubs are at risk of closure,’ says B.C. government

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

(Pxhere)
B.C. nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Most Read