The National Sea Rescue Institute’s Station 37, Jeffreys Bay runs on Girl Power.
The Station has one of the largest female contingents across South Africa and the 13 women, ranging in age from 15 to 66, are part of a strong family bond at the base which serves to protect the world famous surf line and the oceans beyond.
Between the ladies, who range from lifeguards to sea and shore crew, they have racked up more than 3 000 rescue hours and innumerable training hours.
“At our base, women compliment the men as rescue volunteers. Together we are strong, both sexes play a vital role to accomplish our goals,” said Elaine Schmidt, Shore Crew. “We have respect for one another, working together as a family – Station 37 is a united team.”
The women form an integral part of the non-profit organisation which is dedicated to saving lives on South African coastal and inland waters and was founded by pioneer Patti Price in 1966, following the tragic deaths of fishermen off Still Bay.
The ladies have volunteered their time, some for just a few months and others for up to eight years, performing a variety of roles and duties, from checklists, radio communications, maintenance of vessels and, of course, heading out to sea to save people in distress.
Sea crew member Yvette Jacobsz said she has loved the sea for as long as she can remember. “Helping people is in my nature, so sea rescue became my passion.”
Professional lifeguard Jolene Coetzer wasn’t always so proficient in the water – she almost drowned twice and took up lifeguarding to help overcome her fear and give her the ability to safeguard others.
Youngest team member, 15-year-old Lena Paturaux, said that once she joined, she realised NSRI was about more than water safety and swimming. “This is helping others in need, I love it.”
All have completed the intensive NSRI basic training before becoming permanent members and have gone to acquire additional skills.
Jeffrey’s Bay is a small coastal town, and the NSRI places its community as their highest priority. “This is the way our Station builds trust and respect in and around the town,” said lifeguard Siphokule Silani.
When the women don their personal protective equipment, the describe it as “a piece of pride you slip into, which comes with a lot of responsibility and obligation,” said Margaretha Burger.
“NSRI really means something spectacular to each and every one of us,” finished lifeguard Deyanah Essop.
Photo: Yvette Jacobsz; Jolene Coetzer; Siphokule Silani; Lena Paturaux; Deyanah Essop; Margaretha Burger; and Elaine Schmidt