Changing lives, one stroke at a time…

Some of the new trainees starting life under the Oceans Alive programme at the Hout Bay Beach.

A Hout Bay man is making waves on local beaches with his non-profit conservation trust.

Chris Sparks has lived in Hout Bay for 30 years and is the chief operations officer for Oceans Alive, which was started to train lifeguards from the Hout Bay community.

The Oceans Alive Conservation Trust is a registered non-profit, global conservation and public benefit organisation dedicated to saving and protecting the oceans and coastal environments.

Chris Sparks is the brains behind the new Oceans Alive programme at the Hout Bay Beach.

“We manage to do this through providing strategic guidance and managed project funding,” said Mr Sparks.

Their aim, he added, was to encourage and support scientific research, ocean wildlife conservation, protection, ocean recovery, ocean and coastal environment clean-up programmes, community awareness programmes, social upliftment programmes and ocean education and training programmes.

In addition to this, he said, they worked to “help change attitudes and ensure informed decision and policy making processes, which lead to effective and sustainable ocean action programmes and positive conservation and marine wildlife protection outcomes”.

Mr Sparks emphasised that “community awareness, education, training, and social upliftment” were essential to enable people to “understand, appreciate, respect, protect, conserve, and participate in the wonder and diversity of nature and our oceans”.

The Oceans Alive Training Academy outreach water safety and drowning prevention education programme began its first lifesaving training last year.

The academy provides swimming lessons and lifesaving training for pupils from previously disadvantaged, or impoverished backgrounds, to become qualified and effective surf, pool, or open water lifeguards, making them eligible for work experience and employment opportunities as professional lifeguards with the City of Cape Town and through the organisation.

“Being an avid water person, I have grown up in the ocean, having surfed, fished, dived, sailed and spent many hours on my surf ski. I saw the need to somehow give my knowledge and expertise back into this great community that needed upliftment,” Mr Sparks said.

He has been training lifeguards at the Llandudno Surf Lifesaving club for the past 10 years, and both of his children are also qualified lifeguards and instructors.

Mr Sparks is a qualified lifeguard himself as well as a lifeguard instructor and examiner. He also trains skippers and crew to become proficient at surf launching to enable them to handle the boats under the extreme surf conditions that Llandudno Beach has to offer.

Last year, he started a lifesaving course for adults aged between 18 and 35 to become qualified lifeguards. The course runs daily, offering training in swimming, beach fitness, water and sea awareness and introduction to the ocean itself.

“Students then go onto doing the lifesaving course which consists of numerous disciplines of signals, rescue techniques, communication public awareness, first aid classes CPR and choking,” he said.

In September last year, 22 of his pupils qualified as pool lifeguards and eight of these pupils also qualified as surf lifeguards one month later.

“Oceans Alive also paid for them to become members of the new Hout Bay Surf Lifesaving Club. This will boost their club membership allowing them to do both voluntary and professional lifeguard duties at this club,” Mr Sparks said.

For more information, contact Chris at 082 559 7692.