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Station 20 in Shelly Beach, on the lower south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, is a thriving hub of sea rescue operations. The dedicated volunteers that serve this community truly bring to life the statement “teamwork makes the dream work”.

When Gary Wolmarans took up the position of Station Commander just under a year ago, he was well aware of the history of this accomplished base that was co-founded by Eddie Noyons in 1985. Gary felt a deep sense of responsibility to lead the charge of volunteers in their commitment to save lives, change lives and create futures, having been trained and mentored by the base’s former leader Jerry Jackson. According to Gary, Jerry is one of the best surf launch Coxswains, and in January 2022 retired from the command position.

“The crew at Station 20 are from different backgrounds, this brings a unique skill set to the station and the organisation. The crew are dedicated and what is most appreciated is the time given out of their free will to the station. The time to learn, the time to teach others, and – most importantly – the time to leave your family and/or your job to perform a rescue operation, even with the little voice in the back of your mind saying, ‘Chap, you may not return home,’” Gary says.

He goes on to say: “We are a family. Within every family unit there are disagreements or different perspectives, but the growth of the station, and not only the number of volunteers but also the capability of each volunteer, rests on how the family interacts and overcomes physical, social, and mental obstacles.” And that they do.

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In October 2022, the station was called to assist with a medical evacuation and extrication from a lifeboat that had fallen off a ship 22 nautical miles out at sea. The rescue was conducted in adverse weather conditions; nonetheless, the operation was successful. Station 20 brought two foreign nationals to shore who had suffered life-threatening injuries. “What stood out for me was the shore crew that pulled together to get the casualties the correct medical attention. Following the six-hour ordeal, they washed, refuelled and got the station rescue ready prior to leaving. This is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the crew at Station 20.”

For Gary, the most treasured moments are when members of the public comment about the commitment and dedication of the crew, specifically when they learn that it is made up of volunteers with real jobs.

Looking forward to 2023, the vibrant Station Commander is excited and optimistic. He ends off with a heartfelt note to all at Station 20: “I would like to thank everyone for their contribution to the station. There have been ups and downs but each one of you has contributed to the Station, making it possible for us to do what we do. For that, I am grateful. Without you, our crew, there is no Station 20.”

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