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It’s often been said that NSRI volunteers regard each other as family. There’s a closeness that develops while training and on callouts, especially, when crew need to look out for each other as well as the casualties they are helping. But how does this dynamic work when you have real family at the base? What if your dad or mom, brother or sister is crewing beside you? We decided to find out…

For mom and daughter duo, Cara and Jazmynn ‘Jazzi’ Eksteen, joining Sea Rescue meant overcoming a significant hurdle each. Nineteen-year-old Jazzi had a fear of the ocean and Cara suffers from seasickness. Jazzi admits she made a bit of a performance about her mom’s suggestion to join, but both agreed they would dip their toes in the proverbial water first before taking the plunge. ‘A friend who is a crew member recruited us,’ Cara explains. ‘We attended meetings for a few months to see what it was all about.’ After that, it seemed like a natural progression to join as trainees. At the time, Jazzi was 15 and Cara 41. ‘We fell in love with the station and the people and never looked back,’ Jazzi enthuses.

Keeping an eye on each other

Training together was quite special for both women. ‘I don’t know who was watching who more,’ Cara smiles. ‘It was loads of fun, and it was really good for our relationship. It’s been amazing watching such a talented girl grow into a valuable crew member.’ The feeling is mutual for Jazzi, who admits that training with her mom helped them both get over the difficult preceding teen years. ‘Training together, and pushing one another to be better crew, and to get fitter and stronger brought us close together. My mom became my best friend in that first year. Sea Rescue has really given us the most amazing relationship and a lot more compassion and respect for each other.’

Jazzi is quick to acknowledge how much her mom persevered, especially through her seasickness. ‘She struggled in the beginning, but just carried on. My mom is the only person I know who can throw up a lung, burst into tears and still set up a towline. It doesn’t matter how sick or scared she feels, she never gives up. The night she got her crew badge is still my proudest daughter moment. I thought, “That’s MY mom!”. She had proven her bravery and resilience to me a hundred times by the time she qualified. And she hasn’t stopped since,’ Jazzi enthuses. And then chuckles, ‘I still qualified first though, so I’ll always be her senior…’

Memorable rescue

Jazzi has been a full crew member for three years, and has had her fair share of ‘scary rescues’, but the one she remembers as her favourite was going out to find two paddlers who had fallen off their double ski. Light was fading fast and the crew had 30 minutes to find them. ‘We had gone to the base to do checklists when we got the call. Jono, our super-young station commander, Stacey Rudolph, Amy Coetzee, Etienne van Zyl and I launched. We’re all young – which almost never happens. We always have some older guys on our boat, but this was the first time we didn't. (It was the first callout where the crew was 60% women and all of us were under 30.) The one casualty’s name was Wally and to this day I've never played a more intense game of ‘Where's Wally’. But Stacey really had her eye on the ball and we quickly recovered both (seasick) casualties and tied their ski down before sunset. It was the first time that I truly felt “hey, you got this” because it was the first time I'd been given the opportunity to prove my skills. It went so smoothly and it’s by far my favourite callout.’

Friendships and future plans

Stacey (whom we featured with her mom, Janine, in our July newsletter) and Jazzi became fast friends. ‘There was no one my age when I joined, so having someone to relate to really helped. She’s the best buddy anyone could ask for. It’s a great feeling knowing that whatever happens, she’ll be there to help me. She also pushed me to get my crew badge, and didn’t put up with any of my procrastination. My whole Sea Rescue experience changed when Stacey joined because I had someone who understood exactly how I was experiencing everything. The only downside was that during capsize training, the two of us weren’t heavy enough to roll the boat back over. But, aside from that, it’s fun to have a buddy in the water,’ Jazzi explains.

For both mom and daughter, developing skills and continuing to learn are very important. ‘As soon as I get over my seasickness, I want to be skilled at medical extractions,’ says Cara. Jazzi has her sights set on becoming a coxswain. She loves ropework too. ‘It’s my best skill, so one day, “when I’m big”, I’d like to be involved with high-angle rescues. Since I’ve joined, I’ve taken time off school to assist during flood season. It’s probably the most grim part of rescue work. I’m not a strong swimmer yet. But I will be one day, and then I’d love to be able to do more swift-water rescues.’

Guts, determination, enthusiasm and perseverance seem to characterise the Eksteens. What’s also apparent is that they’ve found a special place where learning is encouraged, peer support is in abundance, and where family bonds have grown profoundly.

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