On a sunny afternoon in Sea Point, South Africa, Toby Finneran, a 31-year-old triathlete and avid surfer from Farnham in Surrey, quickly transformed into a hero. While strolling along the Sea Point Promenade, Finneran noticed two distressed boys on the beach, pointing towards the ocean.
Finneran grabbed a pink rescue buoy from one of the boys without hesitation and dove into the sea to save them. Finneran’s experience as a triathlete and member of the South African Embark Triathlon team gave him the confidence to face the challenging five to six-foot swells and the powerful rip current.
A Perilous Situation
As Finneran reached the half-submerged swimmer, he quickly offered the buoy and advised the individual to calm down. However, a series of waves threatened to throw them onto the sharp rocks, adding to the already dangerous situation. Quick-thinking, Finneran swam sideways to avoid the waves, sustaining a few cuts and bruises.
A Race Against Time
Upon reaching the safety of the shore, Finneran discovered that the young swimmer was experiencing leg cramps, arm pain, and chest pain. Fearing secondary drowning, a complication due to inhaling water, he called for emergency services and consulted with a local orthopedic surgeon friend for advice.
As Finneran focused on the young swimmer, another emergency unfolded before his eyes. An 18-year-old lay motionless in the sand, possibly another victim of the same rip current. With guidance from his surgeon friend, Finneran administered first aid and watched the unconscious individual until the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) arrived.
Paramedics treated both individuals, with one being treated for hypothermia and secondary drowning. Finneran humbly downplayed his role in the rescue, stating, “I don’t feel like a hero. I think that is what you are supposed to do. If someone is in trouble, you should help. It’s your responsibility as a human.”
This incident highlights the dangers of rip currents, which can easily overpower even the strongest swimmers. Finneran hopes that his experience will encourage greater awareness of these risks and urges more informative and visual notices to be displayed at Cape Town beaches. With increased knowledge and vigilance, beachgoers can help prevent future tragedies in South Africa’s beautiful yet potentially treacherous coastal waters.