Local lifesaving club recruits learners

2016-08-24 06:00
Kelly Oliphant (12) in grade 7C of Die Heuwel Primary School at the launch of the Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Programme.                Photo: MORNÉ DU RANDT

Kelly Oliphant (12) in grade 7C of Die Heuwel Primary School at the launch of the Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Programme. Photo: MORNÉ DU RANDT

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THE Seagulls Surf Lifesaving Club, located in Humewood, recently launched The School Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Programme in an effort to get young people interested and involved in lifesaving.

According to club member, Roland Jerling, lifesavers are a dying breed and they need to do something to get kids interested in the sport again.

To this end, the Seagulls Surf Lifesaving Club launched the programme on August 17 at Die Heuwel Primary School in Hillside, where the team spoke to the about 150 grade 7 learners.

The club will be running the programme in 52 schools in the Northern suburbs of Port Elizabeth, visiting a different school every day of the week.

The programme consists of two separate aspects: the theoretical phase, which is split into two groups, namely Lifesaving Events and Water Safety; and the practical phase, which will take place during the swimming season.

“Lifesaving is not just about saving lives. It is also a sport. It’s about having fun,” said Kirsten Ingram to the grade 7 learners.

The Seagulls taught the learners that lifesaving is not simply sitting on a beach or poolside and waiting for trouble to rear its head.

There are several competitions that lifesavers participate in, with events involving running on the beach, paddling in the ocean and dragging people to shore.

Lifesavers can also get an international certificate, which means that they are qualified to work anywhere in the world.

As part of the water safety aspect of the programme, the Seagulls provided the children with many helpful tips on safe swimming in the ocean.

The children were taught the FLAGS system to make it easy to remember the safety tips:

  • F – Find the red-and-yellow flags placed in the water. They signify the safest swimming area.
  • L – Look at the safety signs posted on the beach. They identify potential dangers and report daily conditions.
  • A – Ask a life guard for some advice – especially when you are going surfing. The weather and water conditions can change very quickly.
  • G – Get a friend to swim with you. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, the buddy system can save your life. Parents should also always supervise their children.
  • S – Stick your hand up and wave for help when you are in trouble.

Additional tips include:

  • Never swim with your eyes closed - you could slam your head into a boulder or wander too far from shore.
  • Never swim on an unpatrolled beach. There will be no one to help you if you get into trouble.
  • As soon as you get to the beach, look for the lifesaver(s). They always wear red and yellow uniforms.
  • Memorize the necessary emergency numbers: 112 for emergency services on a cellphone and 10177 from a landline.
  • When the wind is blowing into the ocean, it is the best time to go swimming. This will ensure big waves, but the current will push in the opposite direction of the wind, which means that you will not get dragged too deeply into the water.
  • Be careful when the wind is blowing out of the sea, though. This is the optimal time for riptides to form, especially with strong winds and a low tide.
  • Should you get caught in a riptide, it is very important to avoid panicking. Do not swim against the current. Rather swim to the sides where there are weaker spots and you can escape.
  • Do not let the waves push you underwater. Rather go down on your own to avoid getting turned around or swallowing water.

These tips are not only useful to children, but to the public in general.

Despite several daunting scenarios mentioned in Water Safety, the learners are very excited to start putting their new knowledge to good use.

Once the swimming season starts, they will take those interested out into the ocean to put the tips to good use, since the majority of the schools in the Northern Area do not have swimming pools.

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