‘A great thing about surf-lifesaving is the camaraderie’

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The seasoned Strand team competed in all the swim, run, paddleboard and surfski individual and relay events, to notch up an impressive overall score in the various age categories up to 60 Plus, against a number of numerically stronger teams.

Always strong in the surfski and paddleboard events, Strand fielded three teams for these events and racked up plenty of points.

Club captain Josh Kreft, who was also team manager for the day, said the impressive results underlined the depth of expertise and experience of the Strand club – and the commitment of club members to keeping the Strand beach safe.

“Boys and girls learn basic water safety and surf skills from the age of eight as ‘Nippers’, and progress to become fully fledged first-aid trained lifeguards by the age of 16,” he said.

Nowadays this is a gender-equal sport, with about as many women as men, and increasingly is multi-generational, with lifeguards drawing their children into a sport which they can share for much of their lives.

This is borne out by some of the veterans such as Gary Pepler – whose father Ivan was one of the Strand’s founder members in 1958.

He started as a Nipper, and progressed to become a professional lifeguard.

He now lives in Gordon’s Bay, and was part of the Strand Master’s team at Big Bay.

Frank Land, who at 71 was the oldest competitor in the Master’s Classic in the surf, swim and paddleboard events, was one of the earliest members of the club in 1960 – and the first professional summer lifeguard at the dangerous Wilderness beach from 1963 to 1965.

Now his grandchildren are Nippers in the Strand club.

For many years Strand lifesavers have also played an important provincial and national role in the surf lifesaving organisation.

Jurie Wessels, also a first-generation club member, is today the national director of Lifesaving South Africa, and national chairman of the Board of Examiners. He also officiated at the Master’s Classic at Big Bay.

“A great thing about surf lifesaving is the camaraderie in the sport. Its not about money, these are men and women who save lives and have built a sport around it, and get to know each other over many years,” Jurie said.

Cheryl Carter-Smith of the Strand Club was drawn into the sport when her three children joined, some 17 years ago.

Today she is the regional chief examiner of the Western Province Association, and puts aspirant lifeguards through their qualification examinations

“Standards are critical,” she stressed. “Besides being swim-fit, lifeguards need to know about first-aid, resuscitation, and how to read ocean currents so as to guide beachgoers away from dangerous sections of the beach.”

For more information about joining, Google Strand Surf Lifesaving Club or talk to a lifeguard on the beach.

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