Young Mossel Bay rescue ‘divemaster’ loves training people
With Father’s Day come and gone, 18-year-old Shawn Thomson from Mossel Bay is thankful for the influence his dad had on him growing up – even if at the time it seemed like he was just being dragged along.
Despite his tender years and only recently having left school, Thomson is a volunteer at the National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) Station 15 on the Cape south coast, where he a trainee class 4 coxswain.
He has officially been at the NSRI station as a member for three years but unofficially he is into double figures of time spent in and around the base. All thanks to his father, Michael Thomson.
“I learnt about the NSRI through my father who has been at our recue base for 10 years now,” Thomson said. “My brother, Tristin Thomson, 21, and I were dragged with my father to all the different events and training and came to develop a passion for the sea and the NSRI. So, when my brother and I turned the correct age we joined and have never looked back.”
“My day job includes training people on how to dive or on boating, while being ever ready to respond to an emergency call-out at any time if my crew is on duty”.
Thomson is training to be a class 4 coxswain, which means he is working towards eventually becoming qualified to be in sole command of the station’s surf rescue boat, “which as you can imagine comes with a few extra responsibilities”.
Thomson is also part of the Mossel Bay station’s junior management programme, which seeks to help the younger crew develop their leadership and management skills.
The NSRI is a non-profit organisation staffed by volunteers and Thomson – like most volunteers at both coastal and inland rescue stations – have racked up hundreds of volunteer hours. In particular, Thomson has clocked up over 300 hours of volunteering service to the station, since formally becoming a member.
Thomson, who works as a trainer at a diving and skipper’s school, describes volunteering at the NSRI as “amazing”.
“I love seeing the people after entering the water for the first time and taking their first breath under water. It changes a person,” he said. “Then the feeling of floating effortless and weightless in the water. It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders.”
Thomson admits his love for the NSRI organisation means he would love to one day perhaps have a job as a training officer at the head office.
“I have developed such a passion for this organisation, I would love to help it develop further and be part of its growth and impact in helping people,” he added. “I love training people and I have a passion for the ocean so I don’t think I can find a better combination.”
At present Thomson is studying and working towards becoming an NSRI course dive director in a ‘train the trainer’ programme.
When asked to comment on the youth of South Africa, Thomson believes, “the youth of today is highly underestimated and has a lot of potential. My generation, with time, will change the world and make it a better place.”
“Our youth are the key to developing this organisation into something great.”
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is the charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland. The NSRI works to prevent drowning through rescue operations, education and prevention initiatives. The NSRI is totally reliant on donations and sponsorships in order to do the work of saving lives, changing lives, and creating futures. Visit www.nsri.org.za for more information.
The minimum age for joining the National Sea Rescue Institute as a trainee rescuer is 16 years of age. Some NSRI stations offer a junior academy where candidates are able to join in for some of the theory related training from age 12 onwards. On these bases, these candidates are able to become fully fledged rescue crew once they have passed the minimum number of sea hours and practical assessments shortly after turning 16 – due to the benefit of having completed most of the theoretical aspects sooner.
Please note, that as with any trainee and any volunteer – training conditions and expectations are appropriately matched to the candidate’s ability, to manage their safety.