Summer is slipping away, but there’s still time to toast yourself on the beach or catch a wave at our great Helderberg beaches one of these weekends.
And if you get into difficulties in the water you’ll be very thankful to see one of the Strand Surf Lifesaving Club’s lifeguards ploughing through the surf towards you.
An astonishing 517 bathers have been rescued at Helderberg’s beaches since these volunteer lifeguards started patrolling on weekends and public holidays in 1958.
Happy to let the youngsters dash into the surf, the older hands often cruise beyond the breakers on a surfski, perhaps for a leisurely paddle to Gordon’s Bay and back.
And most weekends you will find them in their striking red, yellow and blue kit passing on their life-saving skills to the next gen- eration (or two) at the Strand’s main beach.
Helderberg’s veterans again proved their mettle in their chosen sport when they took top honours in the Masters Classic at the annual Western Province Surf Lifesaving Championships last Saturday at Big Bay in Blouberg.
Dusting off their speedos, 141 Western Province lifesavers over 35 years from 11 clubs ran, swam, and paddled their boards in the competition.
Strand finished in a very credible third place overall, beaten only by Big Bay and Fish Hoek, and were honoured with a number of individual “best-in class” awards, as well as doing well in team events.
Strand’s Shandor Cylvan took the top individual Victor Ludorum prize as “Male Competitor of the Competition” – and Adie de Kock the “Grand Master” award, for their rounded performances in various events.
And Samantha (“Sam”) Hucke placed third in the womens’ individual surf swim, which will be an inspiration to the boys and girls in the Helderberg who take swimming lessons from her.
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 8 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 like 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 Masters team at Big Bay.Frank Land, at 71 the oldest competitor in the Masters 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”.
To enquire about joining, Google Strand Surf Lifesaving Club or talk to a lifeguard on the beach.