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eThekwini lifeguard wins Four Elements Ocean Challenge

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese

“It was a great swimming course and the race was all about ocean conservation. For someone who spends every day on the beach, this is something I am passionate about,” says Sanele Nxumalo.

Drawing attention to ocean conservation are Sanele Nxumalo, Olivia Taylor, Ayanda Maphumulo and Thando Thusi.An eThekwini lifeguard made the city proud in the biggest Four Elements Ocean Challenge recently, taking first place.

Challenge winner Sanele Nxumalo (30) was one of 130 daring participants signed up for the fourth annual Four Elements Ocean Challenge – a five-kilometre open-water swim from eThekwini’s Point Yacht Club to the Country Club Beach.

Nxumalo describes the Challenge as “one of the most important races of the year” as it provides a great opportunity to interact with the public he is dedicated to protecting on his home turf.

The professional lifeguard came second in 2015 and third in 2016.

“It was a great swimming course and the race was all about ocean conservation. For someone who spends every day on the beach, this is something I am passionate about. It’s important for people to be taught the importance of conservation especially on Durban’s beachfront, which is one of the country’s most iconic sites,” he said.

Nxumalo is a three-time Lifeguard Endurance Champion, the winner of the 2016 Miway Surf Swim competition, a Lifesaving Ironman and a silver medal winner in the senior men’s surf swim category at the South African Stillwater Nationals.

“It was exciting to have a number of newcomers from the lifeguard fraternity joining us on the swim this year,” he said, adding that lifeguards were always excited for any surf sport-related event.

Protecting the city ís beaches

Thando Thusi, who has been involved with the eThekwini lifeguard unit in various roles for the past 18 years, also took on the 2017 Challenge.

He explains that there is often a misconception that lifeguards spend their time relaxing on the beach. But the reality is very different. “Becoming a lifeguard is not an easy process and we train in the ocean daily to keep fitness levels up and check safety conditions,” he says.

The challenge introduced a new prize category this year, with prizes awarded to the first three professional eThekwini lifeguards who completed the swim. Nxumalo, Thusi and Lucky Mabuya walked away with the prizes.

Challenge CEO Olivia Taylor says the organisation wanted to honour the unsung heroes who had made a professional career out of looking after visitors to Durban’s beaches. “However, the event was not only about winning prizes, it was about a group of committed swimmers celebrating our fragile and beautiful ocean and raising funds to educate young environmental entrepreneurs.”

Taylor, a student at the University of Stellenbosch, established Four Elements Conservation NPC, a non-profit environmental preservation organisation, five years ago, when she was 14 years old.

The Four Elements Ocean Challenge is one of the organisation’s projects that raise funds for, and awareness of, ocean conservation.

Funds raised from this year’s swim will go towards the launch of an online education programme that focuses on environmental entrepreneurship for youth.