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Source: University of Otago

Tourism PhD candidate Patrick Boudreau is part of the Ravensbourne Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Many children have dreams of becoming a firefighter but not many go on to follow those dreams, especially midway through their PhD.
Otago PhD candidate Patrick Boudreau is competing in the ‘toughest two minutes in sport’ at the 2021 United Firefighters’ Brigade Association National Firefighter Combat Challenge in Wellington on 30 April.
Patrick came to Otago and joined the Tourism Department and the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences to do his PhD after completing his master’s degree in Physical Education at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. At the same time he was teaching high school students how to rock climb. At Otago he is researching the psychology of people who do adventure sports.

“I thought it would give me a sense of purpose that would be different than the PhD work and the focus on theory that comes with doing a PhD. I was thirsty for something that would be a bit more practical.”

“I’ve engaged in various adventure activities for most of my life and it’s easy to understand the value of it for myself. It makes it easy also to connect with participants, to be able to find participants, but also to be able to understand their experience a bit more.”
Only a year and a half ago Patrick was looking for something to give him meaning in life. He happened upon a film, Only the Brave, about firefighters in California working to put out wildfires. The film reignited the spark in him which wanted to be a firefighter and help his community. Not long after, he joined the Ravensbourne Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“I thought it would give me a sense of purpose that would be different than the PhD work and the focus on theory that comes with doing a PhD. I was thirsty for something that would be a bit more practical.”
Patrick has already competed in the South Island Firefighter Combat Challenge in March, so he knows what’s waiting for him when he arrives in Wellington.
“These competitions really allow you to prepare for those short bouts of extreme intensity needed to fulfil the role of a firefighter.”
The competition involves wearing full bunker gear and a breathing apparatus while racing against other firefighters and the clock in a series of tasks including: climbing a six-storey tower carrying a length of 70mm 19kg flaked hose, hoisting a 70mm hose coil six storeys, chopping using a 4kg shot hammer to drive a beam 1.5 metres, extending a charged length of 45mm hose to knock down a disc, the final gruelling challenge is dragging a life-sized dummy a distance of 30.5m.
“That’s the point where every step seems like an impossible step and the only thing in your mind is ‘one more step, one more step’ and that’s all you can think about while you’re getting to the end of the line.”
While the competition takes its toll physically, the camaraderie between firefighters and the opportunity to raise money for charity in another event happening in May makes the hard work worthwhile.
Patrick is also taking part in the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge on 22 May. During this he will climb 51 flights of stairs in 25kg of kit to raise vital funds and awareness for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand
To support Patrick’s race up the Sky Tower click here.
And finally, Patrick reminds everyone to keep fire safe by checking your fire alarms at home and cleaning your chimneys before using them for the winter.

MIL OSI