A handful of False Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s best and brightest competitors will be donning their red, green and white skull caps to represent their club at the Lifesaving World Championships, in the Netherlands, this month.
For Strandfontein’s Carlton Baron, 19, and his False Bay teammates Chevan Clarke, 26, Taariq Hassiem, 27, and Melissa Corbett, 27, the long slog of the lifesaving competition season is finally about to culminate in the dream of competing as a team against the best in the world.
With regional, provincial and national competitions forming the basis of their preparation, the group, backed up with members from a few other Cape-based clubs and captained by flags and beach sprints world champion, Ryle de Morny, will look to measure themselves in the heat of competition and hope to come back with their heads held high – and hopefully with a medal or two to show for their efforts.
Baron, Clarke and Hassiem are used to facing off against each other in local competitions and when you see them hurtling down the beach, one next to the other, broad smiles on their faces, you can see just how much they enjoy the friendly rivalries among themselves.
They will get to export that joy to the beaches of Noordvijk and Eindhoven but will surely find the competition stiff beyond their smiles.
“My parents first enrolled me at Strandfontein Surf Lifesaving Club when I was nine years old,” said Baron, who has made himself known as one of the top junior competitors in the province.
“As I grew older I decided to become a competitive lifeguard and to excel in the sport. With each passing year the training gets tougher and the results get better. I was fortunate to always train with senior competitors and it helped to make me more fearless.
“This season has been a huge success for me. Training with the world champ, Ryle de Morny and the other beach specialists at False Bay has helped me improve my sprints and flags tremendously.
“I placed well at the provincials and inter-provincials in my under-19 category and even in the seniors. For the first time in my lifesaving career I even managed to secure a sixth place finish in the under-19 surfski race.
“I was crowned King of the Beach 2015 in the senior category and ranked second at the finale,” he said.
For Clarke, what started out as “some fun with friends” soon turned competitive and he found himself taking the sport seriously from the word go.
“Competition life for me has become a means to test myself, to find out where I am in terms of the goals I have set for myself. The strengths I bring to the team would be my ability to generate team cohesion.
“I am going back to the drawing board and training 10 times harder than ever before,” said Clarke.
A fellow Strandfontein resident, Hassiem considers himself a versatile athlete, able to take to the beach and water events with equal ferver. His motivation stems from a different experience to most.
“As a junior lifeguard I was not driven in the competitive aspect of lifesaving until August 13, 2006. My brother, Achmat, lost the lower half of his right leg in a shark attack to save my life.
“Since then I decided to focus on my career and becoming a professional athlete and took to the pool and the beach.
“This season I made finals at every competition I took part in. I’m part of the three-time winning beach relay team and considering I dislocated my shoulder at the beginning of the season I am happy with my results,” said Hassiem.
Fresh from competing at the International Sanyo Cup, held in Japan at the beginning of July, Corbett will hope that her experience representing SA will bode well for her team. After just three years in the sport, she has shown true grit to come out as one of the country’s top beach competitors.
“When I first became involved with lifesaving I did a bit of everything and wasn’t sure what events I would like to specialise in. After my first season I thought I did alright in sprints and decided to focus my efforts on the beach events.
“Since then I have improved drastically and am the current Western Province champion for sprints and flags and stand second and third for these events, respectively, at a national level.
“I will do anything for my team and during flags I try my best to keep my teammates in even if it means putting my body on the line. I competed at Cape Champs with a dislocated shoulder to ensure my team got as many points as possible.
“I am looking forward to competing with the best and am especially excited to meet Melissa Howard, the top flagger in the world,” she said.
Team captain Ryle de Morny, who also competed at the Sanyo Cup, will be looking to retain his champion status in the Netherlands but before they can even get there, the team still has fundraising to do.
“We have been working hard to raise funds and have had to put in a massive effort. We have done street collections, shadow shifting at restaurants, knocking on every door we can and creating some hype and awareness on social media.
“With the trip being to Europe we are at an even bigger disadvantage with the exchange rate but we are staying positive and believe that our efforts will be rewarded.
“The team will follow shortly after I compete in the individual divisions and they will take part in the inter-club section and our relay team will represent SA as national champions,” said De Morny.
The team have set up an online crowd funding account via at www.generosity.com/sportsfundraising/false-bay-take-on-rescue-2016 or you can contact De Morny on 083 640 7310.