“I’ve watched others pull dead bodies out of the water and it never gets better”

As the new locally produced Durban Beach Rescue show hits the screens on a DStv Travel Channel, Battery Beach’s 33-year-old SUE-ELLEN Martin takes Lizeka Maduna through the life of being novice lifeguard.

It’s been 12 months since I started out as a lifeguard. The municipality started a great programme for female lifeguards since there weren’t any to begin with; it has been only guys for decades.

I was a gym instructor, so for me it was a physical challenge – I was dared at the beginning to see if I could make the test and I did. I don’t regret it. I was meant to do this; I love this job

Initially the training was very hard. I didn’t realise how much hard work they put into being a lifeguard, the intense twice-a-day training including running and pool work. Once you become an actual lifeguard you get to understand why the training is so tough – you actually have people’s lives in your own hands.

There haven’t been any female lifeguards at our beach before, so our towers don’t cater for both sexes. There is one change room, toilet and shower so one gets to learn to do things quickly; there is no luxury of time when changing or showering.

Life guarding brings you closer to nature. Although you are at work you get to sit on the beach and enjoy the water. People pay thousands for holidays at the beach but we get to be here every day and you don’t need a day off work to do it.

With this job you get to learn to deal with different situations and different people and I think that helps me to be a better mother at home because I have learnt to be patient. I’ve had situations where a parent refused to move closer to the bathing area but you stand your ground and try to explain why there are rules. And if they persist then there is a protocol to follow, such as advising your seniors and then, if the situation persists, law enforcement.

I haven’t had an experience where I was unable to rescue someone but it’s a fear that every lifeguard goes through. I’ve watched others pull dead bodies out of the water and it never gets better – the sleepless nights and troubled mind. Fear takes over but you pull yourself together and work hard to ensure that no life is lost.

– As told to: Lizeka  Maduna.
– Featured image: By Lizeka Maduna.

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