Strangers to the valley or simply those uninitiated folk strolling along Fish Hoek beachfront these days, particularly on Tuesday & Thursday late-afternoons or Saturday and Sunday mid-mornings, might be justified in pondering ‘what the heck’s going on here?’ when they can’t miss seeing a mixture of scores of 7 to 13 yr old boys & girls, older teenaged children, young adults, parents and even grand-parents scurrying up and down the promenade or dashing in & out of the surf directly in front of the lifesaving club’s duty-squad observation tower.
This bevy of frenetic action is a routine part in a day in the lives of members of the world-famous New Balance Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club…as in ‘Now’….and are an unrelenting group of people who apart from being highly competitive multi-disciplined athletes in their own right, perform voluntary water-safety and lifeguarding duties over week-ends and public holidays on local beaches stretching along the immediate coastline from St James through to Glencairn on the Whale-Route and Simon’s Town.
Some lifesavers, with safety rubber-duck boats in attendance, might be observed swimming vigorously around clusters of brightly coloured marker-buoys anchored 150 metres off-shore in their structured squads whilst others are paddling powerfully out-to-sea-and-beyond on an assortment of craft varying from boogie-boards, knee-boards and sleek ocean surfski-racing kayaks, all of which are a testimony to exactly why Fish Hoek beach as such contributes more individuals to our national teams at world championships these days than any other club in South Africa.
Fish Hoek’s world-ranked Surfski paddlers – the Mockè- brothers & Tom Schilperoort dashing for line-honours
When one considers that the Fish Hoek ‘beach’ currently churns-out world-championship medalists in the form of its own surf lifesaving lady athletes in particular, like Lisa Cowling, Kirstin Gelderbloem, Heather Whitehorn, Samantha Murray, Eloise van Gyssen, Jade Antunes, Kendal Alford-Loots, Kim Brugmann, Dominique Dryden and Nikki Mockè,…it’s a far cry from the bad ol’ men-only days – as in back “Then”- when for years, since 1958, Kenneth Kingma was Fish Hoek’s lone ‘Springbok’ national pennant-winning (no medals back then!) team-member and a considered homespun member of Fish Hoek’s beach of yesteryear. Can we even believe there was a ‘Men’s Bathers Only!’ structure on the rocks on the popular Jaeger’s Catwalk then!
Beach-dwellers ‘then’ (say around 1963-ish to 1970-ish) would often gaze in amazement at the likes of the part-time schoolboy trek-fisherman Kingma, swimming behind the surf waveline every other day, up and down the ‘Bay to Clovelly & back on his own and now and again with ‘mates like John Woods, Trevor Doble, John Bush & Godfrey Mockè. Yet, and as memory serves going back ‘then’, Fish Hoek never really had problems in the water, despite the beach’s highly active crews of traditional trek-fishermen in attendance or with competing armadas of bluefin tunnymen trolling for big’uns barely 300 metres off-shore… as was commonplace many-a-day back ‘then’!
Although in fairness one must mention that club-coach (Mad Colonel) Jack Currie once advised his swimmer-patient and belt man – during a reel-alarm training-session – to ‘hold on a bit’ because a school of feeding threshers (sharks) and a lone Orca (killer whale) were reputed to be feeding off a wandering pod of pelagic barely 400 meters out, just off Sunnycove Point! It is clearly remembered how, after ten minutes of so-called ‘hold-on a bit’, patient & belt man Frankie Nielsen and Trevor Doble respectively, were given the thumbs-up signal as ‘all-clear’ and told to ‘GO’ on Jack’s command! – How scary was that?
So despite the ponderings of Fish Hoek’s beachgoers of ‘then’ vs the beachgoers of ‘now’, Fish Hoek continues to produce a crop of male world competitive lifesaving medal winners too (like their ladies) as is evident by the likes of more recent beach legends like Bones Barrett, Peter Creese, Paul Marais, Waleed Damon and Dawid & Jasper Mockè.
Surely the ‘now’ must be better-off than the ‘then’?
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