Lifesaving club waves in 50 years

Some of the lifeguards at Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club are, from left, Dylan Fourie, Sean Teuchert, Graeme Murphy, Jake Schoeman and Dean Teuchert.

Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club is celebrating 50 years of memories, achievements and, most importantly, saving lives.

On Friday December 9, members, old and new, celebrated with a birthday bash at the clubhouse at Woodbridge Island, in Milnerton.

Club captain Mark Mausenbaum told how a few years after the club had been established, its badge and motto, Quis eparabit? (Who shall separate us?), had followed.

The badge, a blue illustration of a man on a horse, symbolises Wolraad Woltemade and his horse, Vonk, who rescued 14 men from drowning near the mouth of the Salt River in Table Bay in 1773. The valiant pair died performing this heroic act.

The club, said Mr Mausenbaum, had felt it appropriate to incorporate that bit of history.

He said good leadership and a close-knit family vibe were some of the reasons for the club’s success.

“Compared to other clubs, we are small, and we’ve always considered ourselves a little family,” he said.

The club has about 40 lifeguards and 90 nippers.

Mr Mausenbaum has been with the club for seven years and has two children who are also members.

Almost everyone who had joined had started as parents whose children were nippers, he said.

Club chairman Philip Pla said the club had a strong nipper movement that feeds lifeguard ranks.

“It’s the members and the community that make up the club. The club is the members. We’re having exponential growth at the moment, and we want to keep it that way,” said Mr Pla.

On Friday, Mr Pla and Mr Mausenbaum visited the club’s founding member, Granville Wilkinson, at the Helen Keller retirement home in Pinelands.

When the club turned 40, Mr Wilkinson received a special award, the Founding Chairman’s Award, for being the club’s most valuable member.

Mr Wilkinson sits in his small room surrounded by memorabilia of his days at the Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club and other clubs. Behind him is a collection of club patches neatly displayed in a glass panel on the wall.

He suffered a stroke in 1991, which affected his speech. So it’s with the help of his lifelong friend, Ken Gilham, who interprets for him, that he tells how he started the club to keep the people of Milnerton safe in the water.

He grew up in Rugby and started the club with five other lifeguards, whose names he no longer recalls.

Asked if he was a good swimmer, Mr Wilkinson’s eyes light up and for the first time everyone can understand his reply: “Oh, yes.”

Mr Wilkinson is fragile now, but the newspaper clippings and old black-and-white photos he has taken out for the occasion show a tanned figure in a Speedo with a mop of black hair on the beach.

He doesn’t recall how much it cost to start the club but remembers it was built on council land and formed through the Surf Lifesaving Association of South Africa.

When Mr Mausenbaum and Mr Pla tell him it was wonderful to meet the man who started the club, Mr Wilkinson says humbly, “It wasn’t only me.”

“Sometimes it takes a little rock to start a building,” said Mr Mausenbaum.

Several families also have their roots in the club. Names that popped up were the Chandlers and, of course, the Teucherts.

Brothers Dean and Sean Teuchert grew up in the club and used to tag along with their father, Paul, and uncles, Mark, Michael and Peter, who have all been members for more than 30 years.

It was inevitable that the brothers would become nippers and both are lifeguards at the club today.

Paul Teuchert says: “When I started at the club, we were still a small club but have grown over the years. I hope the club keeps going strong and keeps Milnerton beach safe.”