Sometimes, there are extended periods of inactivity between actual rescue operations. Therefore, constant training and revision of skills are required. For one thing, rescue swimmers have an interesting job, and equally interesting training camps.
“Training varies between pool and sea sessions, and theoretical and physical evaluations. Flight and boat training is highly structured and well planned in advance to maximise limited time opportunities,” he says matter-of-factly.
In order to become a rescue swimmer, you will have to qualify as a full seagoing member of the NSRI and have the ability to swim unaided for a distance of no less than 200 metres, in both a pool session and at sea.
“You will also require a minimum level three medical qualification,” he says. “Besides that, you need to be able to work in extreme conditions, make quick and decisive decisions, and remain committed to regular training,” the weather-beaten pro insists.
The working conditions range from cold to hot, quiet to noisy, and are always wet and exhausting. “During calls, rescue swimmers are fitted with a full wetsuit, booties, harness, fins, mask, snorkel and a knife. You are required to be dressed like this for hours at a time, getting increasingly hot and uncomfort-able. Then, within minutes, you are submerged in cold and rough seas,” he sighs.
The job is tough. Rescue swimmers are often called out in the middle of the night at the height of a storm, and go into water with massive waves breaking over their heads, to help boaters in trouble.
But for Andre, this is his dream job. “Although it’s dangerous, it’s also exciting and teaches me many life skills,” he smiles.
For volunteering to save the lives of total strangers, Andre has earned many awards. The brave men and women who serve as NSRI rescue swimmers perform courageous, lifesaving feats every day.
Published By: Liezl Maclean