Captivated by JBay Lifeguard

As dejected as it may seem, the word drowning resonates with me, especially during this time of the year.  Drowning is defined as respiratory impairment that typically occurs silently, with only a few people able to wave their hands or call for help.  Statistics show one person drowns every two to three days during summer.  Surprisingly, the number one killer in the sea is the current.  This is a short personal narrative of my experience during December 2018 with the hope that it might save someone’s life.

The NSRI terms a rip current as a strong, narrow, fast-flowing current directed toward the sea that travels up to one to two meters per second. Rip currents usually develop close to the shoreline in very shallow water around a meter deep – just where beach bathers are usually found. My dad always educates me on when and where to swim.  From an early age, I remember spending countless hours on the beach and in the sea every holiday.  By the same token, I see myself as a decent swimmer who is able to swim myself to safety when necessary. 

Last year, my two girls and I were swimming at Dolphins Beach.  As a rule, we never swim deep and stay between the red flags at all times.  When we entered the water, there was no upshot current or at least I could not see any in the water.  After an hour of swimming, suddenly I could not stand.  My kids and I found ourselves in a dark spotted rip current. 

As former Northern Transvaal swimmer, lifesaver and Learn to Swim Instructor I tried to use the force of the waves to help us get back to shore.  Unannounced, a giant wave plunged over us and split us apart.  “Stay Calm, please stay calm”, I yelled!  I was surprised to find my two daughters listening attentively.  My oldest floated on the water imitated by her younger eight year old sister.  Reminiscent of my days as a lifesaver, I decided to swim parallel to the beach and dragged both my daughters along.  My eye caught the lifeguard patrolling the beach on his paddle ski and I gave him an arm signal.  The lifeguard approached us and instructed that we put our hands on the paddle ski as he pulled us ashore. 

I was again reminded of the force and magnitude of the ‘OCEAN’.  Children should never swim without their parents.  Do not panic, do not try to swim out of a current and always go into ‘float mode’.  Raise your arms and keep calm.   Remember, rip currents move at three times the speed of an Olympic swimmer. 

God bless this lifeguard of JBAY.  You know who you are.  Thank you for saving our lives!!!

‘The safest beaches for bathers are those with a lifeguard, who are trained to recognize safe regions – their flagged areas and advice should always be followed.’