Speedos go but dedication remains
Surf club stalwarts sweep lifesaving awardsVANITA PRASAD
Saving swimmers while wearing speedos is no longer the look for Karekare lifeguards. But the club's three oldest patrolling members reckon they could bring them back.
Stuart Hammond, Bob Harvey and Karel Witten-Hannah have seen the beach and bathers change but their dedication to surf lifesaving remains the same.
That devotion from the three stalwarts and four other club members was recognised at the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Awards.
Karekare's lifeguards were the largest group recognised with five past and present members receiving badges for 50 years service.
The long-service members include Ian Smith, Laurence Pharo, Valerie Walton, Hammond, Harvey and Ray Simpson, who died last August.
Former Waitakere city mayor Bob Harvey has 58 years of continuous service and is the longest serving member of the club.
But the 71-year-old isn't planning on hanging up his yellow and red uniform anytime soon.
"I think I could do it until I am 80. Our roles change up a bit of course and you may be doing more spotting but we all still take part in rescues.
"We're all very capable at swimming our 25 lengths of the pool in under nine minutes - I can still do it easily. We keep our resuscitation skills up to date.
"I do it for the love of the beach and the love for surf lifesaving."
Hammond, 73, is the club's oldest patrolling member. He has served Karekare for 53 years and still loves the beach.
Witten-Hannah joined the club in 1983 and received a service award for his dedication.
The respected lifeguard has responded to numerous after-hours callouts and is still a member of the first response team.
He won the New Zealand Rescue of the Year Award in 2001 and in 2007 received a Northern Region Distinguished Service Award.
Karekare has won the prestigious New Zealand Surf Life Saving Rescue of the Year award three times, including one incident involving six tourists.
Witten-Hannah says it happened in 2000 on a busy afternoon.
"I swam out to a group of young Korean guys and we managed to get them all apart from one who had gone under. We were in about chest-deep water when Eric Davis felt the guy brush past him and pulled him up by his hair."
All the swimmers survived though the lifeguards never heard from them again.
"Often people are too embarrassed to say thanks after but sometimes they do. I've still got a thank-you letter from years ago," Witten-Hannah said.
But Hammond said rock stars have done well in acknowledging their saviours.
After lifeguards rescued Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and Tim Finn in 1995, the club was sent 30 tickets to see Pearl Jam play the following year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you wear a lifejacket when you are on the water - no matter what vessel you are in?