Put Aimee Faulmann and Ryle De Morny next to each other and you have quite some contrast. Aimee is a petite 17-year-old currently busy with Grade 12 at Muizenburg High School, and who would like to study veterinary science after school. Ryle, by contrast, is a tall, strapping 22-year-old business science student at UCT. But physical appearance aside, the two share a number of sporting traits. Both are members of the False Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, based at Muizenberg Beach, and both started the sport at a young age. Another trait they share is a talent for the sprint events.
WIDE CHOICE OF EVENTS
The sport of surf lifesaving consists of “loads of events”, says Aimee. “Basically, you get the ‘Beachies’ and the ‘Sea People.’ In the water there’s a run-swim-run, surf swim, kneeboard, surfksi, reel alarm rescue, torpedo rescue, board rescue, taplin relay, and the Ironman. The torpedo rescue is with the hand-held flotation device that the Baywatch lifesavers always carried, the taplin relay comprises all the events, while the Ironman is for individuals who do all the events in one competition.”
“Then there are the beach events: flags, sprints, beach relay and long run. Flags is where we lie on our stomachs, chin on hands, then jump up, turn and sprint 20 metres to grab small pieces of hosepipe in an elimination event. The sprints are straight sprinting, the beach relay is four in a team, either gender-specific or mixed, and the long run varies in distance for the age groups, 1km to 2km.”
Both Aimee and Ryle are specialists in flags – and it’s not just a race about speed and reaction time, says Ryle. “There’s a big psychological and tactical aspect to it. You have to find the weakness in your opponents, and you can work together with teammates to eliminate opponents, or make sure your teammates stay in the event.”
“Flags is amazing, I love it,” adds Aimee. “The best part is winning, and when it comes to flags I’m really competitive. I fractured my thumb at the Western Province Champs a few years back, but only realised it after the event. The sand at Blouberg is like cement!”
Aimee also participates in athletics at school, where she has earned provincial colours for the 100m. She also races cross-country, where she normally finishes in the top five, but prefers sprinting. “I don’t enjoy long distance, but once I’m in the race I just go for it.” Ryle has a similar outlook to Aimee, preferring sprints and shorter distances: “Two kays is fine for competition, but five is pushing it. I just don’t enjoy training that long.”
As lifesavers, it’s not just about running around on the beach, though. These athletes have to earn the right to compete by working on the beaches, keeping an eye on the swimmers. “You have do a certain number of duty hours if you want to do competitions for your club and your province,” explains Ryle. “But once you’ve qualified as a lifesaver, you can also do pro work and get paid for it.”
The surf lifesaving season runs from October till April, with the National Champss this year on 30 March at Camps Bay in Cape Town. “We also have the Hansgrohe Masters of Water Lifesaving Series, where basically a national squad gets picked each season, based on the previous year’s results, and we then compete against local or provincial teams,” says Aimee. Both are currently in the squad, which is also the essential stepping stone to making the national teams that regularly compete overseas.
“The biggest reason I do this sport is the opportunity to travel and experience different countries,” says Ryle. “I’ve been to Germany, Egypt, Japan and Australia, plus stopovers along the way, so I’ve seen some incredible places, and it’s an honour to represent your country.”
Aimee was a non-travelling reserve for the trip to Egypt last year, and was then selected as travelling reserve this year for the annual TriNations event in February. “We were both supposed to go to New Zealand, but they couldn’t get enough sponsorship. It would have been my first overseas trip with the national team, and one of the girls got injured recently, which means I would have been competing, so I’m very disappointed. Hopefully next time…”