Ballito’s Real Heroes – Lifeguards!

I have always appreciated and admired those who put their lives on the line to protect our communities – it takes a selfless and extremely level-headed person to do what these people do. They know what a genuinely bad day really looks like and yet they wake up every day and go back to work to do what they do best – save lives! These brave people are a gift to our town, a gift that so often goes unopened or unappreciated! With the often harrowing holiday season upon us, we thought it only right to extend our appreciation to the EMS providers in our town for their hard work and dedication to their community as we find out what life is like for a hero! In the second instalment we will be chatting to Ballito’s Lifeguards.

What drives someone to become a lifeguard?

I think that some people have an inherent need to help others and that drives people to go into a career that involves risking your life to save someone else’s. Personally, I knew this was my calling at the age of nine. I was introduced to the ocean at a very early age when I started as a Nipper with the Lifesaving Club and fell in love with all that it involves.

What type of person is suited to becoming a lifeguard?

You have to be very tolerant, your communication skills have to be top notch – the less that people understand you, the more easily accidents can happen. You have to have a deep respect and love for the ocean.

Number one tip for beach users?

In the end, we are only human and cannot have our eyes on everything at once, so we urge you, as a beach user, to take responsibility for your own safety and that of your children. Know your emergency number – 032 946 2711 – and never forget that if you knowingly put your life at risk, you are putting the life of one of us at risk because it’s our duty to save you, no matter what. Finally, it’s important to make yourself familiar with beach rules and regulations.

What’s the most common emergency situation that you find on our beaches?

When people don’t listen and venture to close to restricted areas, get caught in a riptide and start to panic. This immediately makes the victim lose energy and can lead to drowning. Our coastline is quite unprotected and we therefore have much bigger waves and stronger shore breaks, which can lead to a lot of fractures.  Lifeguards are there to keep you safe, not to put a damper on your day! If we tell you not to do something, it’s because we know that you could be hurt.

How do you prepare yourself mentally for a rescue?

Lifeguards have to be extremely quick-thinkers as you really don’t have the time to think about things in an emergency. You are purely fueled by adrenaline and you just let your training and instincts take over.

Are the lifeguards in Ballito valued as much as they should be?

I think that if a person has been saved by a lifeguard then they and the people close to them will have more respect for what we do than someone whom we haven’t directly or indirectly helped. But I do think that the community feels safer knowing that we are there.

If someone’s drowning and there’s a shark in the water, what do you do?

The patient is the priority, no matter what we have to go out. Fortunately we have other things to utilise than only paddles, so we can use the boat or jet ski and things like that.

How do you deal with the bad days?

Having been in this career for as long as I have, you are unfortunately sure to have been faced with things like drownings. A drowning is probably the worst problem we face because I always end up thinking about what I could possibly have done better to save that person’s life. It’s something that you never really get over.  Most of us are fathers, so seeing a child drown takes a really big chunk of your heart.

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