WATCH: Lifeguard’s rocky jet ski ‘show-off’ whips up a storm
He was filmed trying to figure out how to use his jet ski on the KZN North Coast
A cellphone video of a KwaZulu-Natal lifeguard who appeared to run into trouble on his jet ski has gone viral, with onlookers saying he “had no idea what he was doing”.
But his employers have denied he was negligent, saying he had just received his skipper licence.
SA Maritime Safety Authority spokesperson Tebogo Ramatjie told Times Select the jet-ski operator had already received a warning related to the incident on Saturday.
“The operator of the jet ski has been warned and a letter of reprimand issued by the beach manager,” Ramatjie said.
Ryan Nienaber, who filmed the KwaDukuza lifeguard on his jet ski at Salmon Bay in Ballito, on the KZN North Coast, said he was fishing with his friends on Saturday morning when they spotted the lifeguard.
“This guy was like a skateboarder on a halfpipe. I don’t understand what he was doing there, he wasn’t responding [to an emergency], he was showing off – to a very small crowd.”
He said he started filming on his cellphone after the guard manoeuvred into the rocks for a second time and refused help from locals. “It was utter craziness, we were standing fishing when we saw him. The wave action was about 1.9m swell every eight seconds which made like a halfpipe. He could have injured someone.
“My friend Marius [Pienaar] offered to help; he knows this water well. After numerous tries, he [Pienaar] said: ‘Give me the keys.’ And he could have got him out of there.”
Pienaar said he believed the guard was showing off when he got into trouble.
“We were fishing on the rocks and had just landed a fish and cast the line back in when we saw the lifeguard and were like: ‘Jus! What’s this guy doing?’
“He had no idea what he was doing. [He was] coming into the breakers [heavy waves] near a rocky shoreline and with no emergency or any rescue emergency needing to be done … He was showing off, and eventually after so many tries I offered to assist him.”
NSRI Ballito station commander Quinton Power said they first heard about the incident when they received a call from a concerned member of the public who was on the beach at the time. He expressed concern about the incident, saying it did show unsafe practices.
An NSRI member, who did not want to be named because he did not have the authority to speak to the media, said a member of the public had helped the lifeguard off the rocks the first time. “The guard then got back on to the jet ski and did another manoeuvre for the benefit of the cheering crowd on the beach.”
But Steve Honneysett, marine safety officer for the KwaDukuza municipality, said the lifeguard followed the correct procedures.
“We have sat down with the member, and believe he followed correct procedure and was not negligent and was not acting with disregard to equipment.”
Honneyset said from the video he could not see if the lifeguard was showing off, but said the guard had not tied the rescue sled equipment properly on to the craft, which caused the jet ski to move towards the rocks with the waves.
“Because of this he couldn’t turn, the waves caused him to bounce towards the rocks, and he was thrown off the ski. He started again, and that was the correct procedure.
“When this thing [video] went viral we called him in. He realised he shouldn’t have been that close to the rocks, but it could have happened to anyone … He just got his skippers licence this year, and he has to learn. In my 30 years of lifesaving, I also made mistakes, that’s how we learn.
“The problem is people see it [the incident] on social media and they come to the wrong conclusion, but he did the right thing.”
He said the guard was using a rescue ski that cost about R150,000, and was performing a routine patrol when the incident occurred.
Honneyset said the municipality had five jet skis that patrolled six beaches from Ballito Beach to Zinkwazi.