“I started lifesaving through Nippers at the age of 10, and have been in lifesaving since then,” Neerasha Kalicharan (23) referring to the brainchild Derick Whitting of Durban’s Pirates Surf Club way back in 1969. “I used to watch the kids training to be lifeguards on the beach, and was curious. So I tried it out, and never looked back. It was a constant challenge, which I love.”
Nippers is a now a regular summertime competition for kids, aimed to build fitness levels and an appreciation for health-conscious living. Nippers competitions are held every month during summer, and the Neerasha specialised in the run/swim/run, board paddle and surf-ski disciplines.
Neerasha is not what we expected when we first called to chat to her for this interview, but then she doesn’t claim to be your ordinary sort of girl either.
“I think financially, working as a lifeguard is a good start-off for youngsters. I would like to run my own business in lifesaving one day, and I’m also studying Industrial Psychology. I’ll make something of that soon too,” said Neerasha.
She enthuses about her lifesaving hobby, which has become an income-generator as she continues her studies. “It’s a passion, it’s a job, and it’s a lifestyle. The ocean is what keeps me going,” when asked what keeps her coming back for more.
Neerasha is based in Ballito (“… one of the areas I wanted to work, a beautiful town”), and belongs to the Isipingo Lifesaving Club on the KwaZulu Natal South Coast. “We came fifth in the KZN Lifesaving Champs. As our club is quite small, it’s up to the individuals to compete.
“It can be an expense hobby,” she confirms. “The skis and boards are pretty expensive, especially if they have to be custom-made. But our sport does promote (inclusion of) females from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Lifesaving South Africa has programmes up and running.”
At the moment Neerasha is busy preparing for the 2007 triathlons, fitting that into a busy work schedule. “My position is pretty unique. I am the first female in the history of my company to become an area manager,” says Neerasha proudly.
“My job involve me doing response as well, meaning being available to attend to all after-hours drowning incidents, and any other water-related difficulties,” says Neerasha, admitting that it was a challenge for her to become accepted in a bunch of the boys.
But her achievements are testimony to a gritty determination to persevere. “My greatest achievement so far was to be being named Vodacom’s SA National Lifesaver of the Year for 2003, and I qualified for the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Lifesaver teams for 2003 and 2004.”
Neerasha’s favourite personalities are Oprah (“All the work she does is amazing!”), national swimming icon Ryk Neethling, and her female sport star is none other than this month’s gSTAR, Natalie Du Toit (“I admire her most for her determination”).
Despite acknowledging that “Living a healthy lifestyle for a female is pretty difficult, with the pressures on youngsters today”, Neerasha enjoys a variety of exercise in her daily life: “I do gym, I enjoy spinning, also kick boxing, I really enjoy that!”, she says.
And what is Neerasha’s favourite inspirational message: ”One day at a time!"