Humans

MJ living in Umhlanga – Sink or Swim Lifeguard Academy

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How did you become a lifeguard?
I got into it about eight years ago. My older brother Shedrack was the first black lifeguard in KZN. I fell in love with this job, when he used to come home and tell us about the ocean and what he had been doing, I got drawn into it. I told him I wanted in, he helped me with training before I knew it in 2002 I qualified to become a lifeguard. I have just been loving it.

What sport do you do to keep fit?
Lifeguarding is my job it is what I do for a living. It links to sport because if you are a lifeguard you are going to have to keep training. In terms of training my sport is paddling, I am mostly focused on long distance paddling, from ten kilometers up to like forty kilometers in one day. It is what keeps me fit. I also do a lot of swimming.

You were telling me about a weekly show you took part in?
Yes, its is a documentary, it is playing on channel 179 which is the travel channel on DSTV. It was filmed earlier this year. It is a lifeguard program to show the world what lifeguards do. People don’t really know what lifeguards do. I am telling you it can be hectic here, there are real life situations where you have to rescue someone who is in trouble. I remember this guy was caught in a rip, he was struggling. This was caught on film. This guy was in trouble so I swam to him to offer my help. When I got to him, he was really rude he didn’t want my help. Instead of swimming back I decided to hang around him, I could see he was a weak swimmer, he would need my help. He struggled for a bit longer and then asked for my yellow thing which is my torpedo which I gave to him and I swam him in. Within a minute we were at the shore. He was fighting the rip I needed to pull him in, I didn’t have time to explain to him how to deal with a rip.The program shows people what we do. In December we have 4000 swimmers to look after, that is a lot.

What is going through your mind when you are in the water swimming to rescue someone?
Every second counts, that’s what I always say. When I am running for a rescue I always tell myself to go all out. I would rather tire myself going for a rescue and get to that person who needs help. Once there you must never loose that person, even if you are tired – hold him or her and call for help. There are people watching on the beach, if you wave your hand they will come. Rather get there quicker, I dont think of coming back I think of getting there as quickly as possible. Once I have secured the person, someone will come and help if I dont have strength to swim back in, but I trust myself, I am very fit – I always make it there and back.

What advise do you give people who are swimming in the ocean, most people wouldnt know how to handle getting caught in a rip etc?
My advise to people when they come to swim in the ocean is to always swim where there are lifeguards because a lot of drownings happen when people go swimming in areas where there are no lifeguards.

Sink or Swim academy