Who amongst us does not like going to the beach for a relaxing stroll? The enchanting sound of the sea, the mesmerizing sunset, and the tranquil atmosphere soothes every soul. Now imagine this peaceful moment is shattered by a scream of fear! A person caught in the tide is being swept out to sea! Just then, a lifeguard fearlessly jumps into the water and swims powerfully out to the person in distress. Carefully and calmly, he rescues the person with a lifebuoy and tows him to the safety of the shore. Now imagine the same scenario, but with no lifeguard present.
A lifeguard on duty can mean the difference between life and death. Hence, today, on the occasion of our 72nd Independence Day, SHM Shipcare takes this opportunity to commend the stalwarts who keep our Mumbai shores safe – the lifeguards of the Baywatch Lifeguard Association.
A Brief History of Baywatch Lifeguard Association
The Baywatch Lifeguard Association is a non-profit organisation which was founded in 2009 by Bunty Rao and Sayeed Shama, who realized that the main reason of frequent drownings on the Juhu Beach was because of the lack of a lifeguard. It all started in the year 2000, when Bunty Rao saw a small child drowning on the Juhu beach and he jumped in to rescue him.
Understanding the potential for accidental drownings, he started working voluntarily as a lifeguard in his time away from work. Over the years, he was joined by Sayeed Shama, who decided to create an organization dedicated to the cause, Nigel Creado, an engineer who leads the lifeguard operations, and many others. Today, the Baywatch Lifeguard Association has become the go-to resource for people needing assistance or rescue on the Juhu beach.
Together they have helped save countless lives on Juhu beach, which is no small feat, given the crowd on the beach and its length. The small army of lifesavers trains lifeguards in self-defense and emergency rescues. In addition, they provide practical information about water-safety and first-aid to the tourists on the beach, thereby increasing awareness amongst the people.
Let’s take a look at some of their experiences.
The Lives of Lifeguards
The lifeguards of the BLA are trained in all forms of first-aid medication and perform regular training exercises out on the sea. In addition to people’s safety, they take their own safety seriously as well. “The first rule of life-saving is to make sure you yourself are safe”, says Bunty Rao. “It is only when the lifeguard is secure that the rescue operation can be carried out successfully.”
Working as a lifeguard comes with its ups and downs. It can be both rewarding and haunting. On one hand you see the joy and thankfulness in the eyes of the person rescued, while on the other hand there are the stark faces of death.
Says Nigel, “I have learned a lot about life since I started working as a lifeguard. In our work we deal with death on a daily basis. Some are young boys and girls who have bunked college for a fun day out at the beach, which turns into a disaster. Towards the evening, you sometime spot a well-dressed man or woman walking out into the sea. These are people who are frustrated with life, with their jobs, and are out to commit suicide.” As a lifeguard, it is their duty to rescue people, irrespective of whether they want to be rescued or not, because every life is precious.
The worst times are, of course, when they get a call from the police about retrieving a dead body from the sea. Nigel himself has retrieved at least 8 corpses from the sea, often in various stages of decomposition. When asked by friends and family about how he manages to sleep at night after such an arduous and emotionally scarring task, he simply shrugs and replies, “I don’t.”
However, they have also seen the difference a simple warning can make. A single blast of the lifeguard’s whistle is enough to make people understand that they are treading dangerous zones and they obediently return to a safer area. This awareness about safety is highly satisfying, though its creation has taken considerable time and effort.
Bunty Rao, who has saved over 50 lives in nearly two decades, recalls his early days working as a volunteer lifeguard on Juhu beach. “I couldn’t save as many people as I could have,” he says, “The lack of equipment and the sheer length of the beach make it impossible to be everywhere in case of an emergency.”
Founder-President Sayeed Shama seconds this thought, stating that it is not always possible to jump into the sea to rescue people. “We can see the person drowning with the naked eye, but swimming that far out is not always possible. It can be much easier if there is a surfboat or a kayak, so we can row out immediately to the person in distress.”
There are only four government-appointed lifeguards on the Juhu beach, which makes manning the complete length of the beach a difficult task. Today, nearly 10 years later, the situation has improved due to the tireless efforts of the Baywatch Lifeguard Association, reducing the number of drownings significantly.
It has been a long and hard journey for the BLA, especially considering the lack of financial support from the government. The organisation has received some assistance from the Juhu Citizen’s Welfare Group and the local Juhu Police Station, but apart from that there has been no active support from any of the government authorities. There is an urgent need for better safety equipment and greater social awareness amongst people to avoid fatal accidents.
Nevertheless, the team of the Baywatch Lifeguard Association keeps working diligently, without remuneration or recognition, towards their aim of making Juhu beach a 100% drowning-free beach, one life at a time. We, at SHM Shipcare, are extremely proud of their inspiring endeavour and have ensured that they are supplied with the life-saving equipment, such as lifejackets, lifebuoys, rescue tubes, etc., that they need. We have always aimed towards making our shores safe and we are glad to have the assistance of the BLA in the same.
Perhaps the best day in the life of a lifeguard is when he does not have to put his mettle to the test, for it means that everybody is safe and happy on the beach. Today, let us all resolve to follow their example and stay vigilant at all times!