Life Saving - The Death Pull

There was a time I, yes me, was actually training (only for experience) with lifesavers. These weren’t your ordinary lifesavers, these were Springbok-Western-Province-South-African-colours, PRO athletes and this training was hard-core-beach-training-life-saving.

There were many experiences that actually brought me to tears, but there was one experience that actually brought fear… a type of death fear to be more specific.
We were taught all sorts of life-saving methods, but this one specifically I call, the Death Pull. Basically, you (the person swimming out to save someone) will have a belt wrapped around your waist and its joined by a very heavy rope to a wheel.

You are supposed to swim out through huge tumbling waves while the rest of the crew are supposed to give you slack on the rope by unrolling the wheel. Not that day. This day was the first time we were getting our training and I (the not so serious one) was to swim out and save the person who had to be “saved” while the crew on the beach got their training. I was always the guinea pig.
With only one trainer, I found myself swimming in one spot for probably about half an hour because the people back on the beach weren’t giving me enough slack to swim out.

After struggling and swimming my little heart out, I managed to reach about 5 meters away from the guy I was about to “save”. I asked him to swim towards me, but because he was a big shot, he casually encouraged me to carry on swimming towards him. He was apparently “unconscious”.

After another half an hour of swimming only 5 meters, I finally managed to reach him.

Next, you’re supposed to semi float, half leaned back, so that the one you “save” will sit snuggled on top of you.
What was supposed to happen was after I had secured my“unconscious” swimmer, I had to lift my arm out of the water indicating to the folks back on the beach that they can now reel me back in, but because this was our first attempt, they started reeling us in before I was ready or had even lift my arm for the signal.

I cannot explain the speed at which you go flying through the water back towards the beach, but I can describe it as the most terrifying, underwater experience of my life. I was literally flying BACKWARDS underwater and had lost all control.  

Throughout the entire pull back, I held close onto my “unconscious” swimmer and I tried lifting myself out of the water for air with my other arm. Every second I managed to lift my head out of the water resulted in a horribly panicked broken sentence to which my “unconscious” swimmer replied: “Don’t worry, you doing well”.

I managed to get myself together and left the guy at sea. I realized then and there, I needed to save myself.

One would think the folk back on the beach would stop pulling seeing as I had lost someone relatively important out in the waves!? No. They did not even see me lose him and pulled me right up onto the beach until I came out covered in sand and regret.