Battling six foot walls of water and spraying foam, two teenage lifesavers tackled the moody Milnerton Beach waters in December as they tried desperately to haul two swimmers washed out to sea into their rescue boat.
Their selfless act that saw two people rescued is now being recognised by the national lifesaving body, Lifesaving South Africa (LSA), with bravery awards.
For Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club’s Ariel Mausenbaum, 17, and Charl Jones, 18, a routine summer’s day patrolling their beach quickly turned into a flustering battle with the elements as they were called upon to muster up courage in the face of adversity and head out in massive swells to put their skills to the ultimate test – to save a life.
Ariel recalls the events as they unfolded.
“It was just an ordinary day on the beach. The sun was out and the waves were about 6ft. All seemed calm but we remained vigilant.
“At about 1pm we noticed two swimmers edging out further than normal so we sent two lifeguards out to bring them closer to shore. While the guards were paddling out they were knocked by a big wave and came off their boards.
“At this point Charl and I rushed down to launch the rescue boat. The men were now fighting for their lives and we knew that we didn’t have much time.
“We reached the first man and pulled him into the boat with no problems but a big set of waves delayed us getting to the second patient.
“Eventually there was a lull and we took the opportunity to fetch the young man, who at that point was no longer conscious. While we tried to bring him into the boat a wave caught us off-guard and nearly flipped the duck.
“We had to go back around to collect the patient. We were very nervous and full of mixed emotions. Neither of us had experienced such an intense rescue before.
“Thankfully, the second time around, we were successful. After picking him up I sat in the boat holding the lifeless body of the man as his eyes rolled back in his head,” he said.
Making their way back to shore, the two guards called for assistance from the remaining guards on the beach, who commenced CPR on the unconscious patient. After a number of cycles the man began breathing again and before long an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.
At the LSA national awards ceremony dinner, held at the end of July, the two boys were awarded letters of commendation for bravery.
Their team on the beach, nurse Bonita Jones and Matthew Hutchinson were honoured with letters of commendation for drowning prevention. For Charl, it was all just part of the job.
“It feels amazing to be recognized for what we did. I am grateful for the award as I didn’t have any expectations of any formal recognition for performing my duties, especially not from a national body.
“With the experience we have gained over the years we can help future lifeguards and beachgoers alike realise the serious risks of the ocean. I am in the process of doing my official surf proficiency award instructor’s course to help teach up-coming guards to be efficient lifesavers.
“For the general public, I advise that emergency numbers such as law enforcement and paramedics be saved on their phones for easy access as you never know when you may need it.
“Everyone should consider educating themselves with the basics of first aid as it may one day save a life. Schools and lifesaving clubs offer easily accessible first aid programmes,” said Charl.
Looking ahead, the new season is slowly rearing its head and soon beachgoers will flock to local beaches and call upon the services of lifeguards across the peninsula once more. It is good to know that they are in good hands by the look of things.
“I have worked incredibly hard to be the best lifeguard I can possibly be and on that day the training paid off when we were able to save a life.
“I am happy that lifeguards are being recognised for everything they do. Most people think we just sit on the beach, catch a tan and chat up girls all day but we are really there to prevent misfortunes and to ensure that things just run smoothly,” said Ariel.