Coast KZN

06 May 2021

Great White dashes world-first hopes as swimmers raise more than R27 000 for Ballito NSRI

Juan Venter (North Coast Courier) Picture: Jay Azran, his wife Ruth (non-swimmer) and daughter Jordana with Mike Oberholtzer, Jocelyn Atwell, Sarah Jane Janse van Rensburg and Sarah Swainson.

The arrival of a 4-and-a-half metre Great White Shark put a swift end to the hopes of 6 swimmers attempting a world-first 24 km swim from Salmon Bay to Umhlanga Main Beach on Sunday. Sarah Jane Janse van Rensburg, Sarah Swainson, Mike Oberholtzer, Jocelyn Attwell and father and daughter, Jay and Jordana Azrin were swimming to raise money for the Ballito National Sea Rescue Institute, along with 95 others who walked sections of the same distance the day before.

Nine walkers completed the full 24 km. The combined events raised R27700 to assist Ballito Station 41.

The swimmers had hoped to complete the distance in 9 hours, but 5-and-a-half hours in the shark – now nicknamed Gary – took more interest in the group than was comfortable. Mike Oberholtzer said they were way ahead of schedule and had made great progress, despite battling tough ocean currents off Umdloti for more than an hour.

“We were eventually taken much deeper out to sea than expected. That was when we were told by our monitoring crew that a shark was nearby,” he said.

Organiser, Mike Gahagan of The Philocaly Trail said they were grateful for the tremendous support and turnout.

The National Sea Rescue Institute and it’s Ballito base, Station 41 operates on a completely volunteer-based basis – funds raised will assist in Station 41 carrying out it’s sworn duty of looking after the safety of those at sea. Station 41 commander, Quentin Power said they were pleased to see the community rally to support the cause.

“On behalf of the Station 41 crew and our other bases we would like to thank each and every contributor for their willingness and support in keeping our rescue boats and crews on the water and trained to be able to be the best at what they do – saving lives,” said Power.

He congratulated the swimmers on their effort as the attempt was done in less than easy conditions, let alone taking the distance into account.

“It is an amazing achievement, both mentally and physically which can never be taken away.”

“Lastly, thanks go out to the organisers and walkers who stuck to their guns despite the gloomy weather reports which did not deter them in their efforts. Not only have you assisted our crews, but you have also highlighted the impact of man on our waterways, coastlines and opened eyes for those that have not seen these stretches of beach before,” said Power.