IT may sound counter-intuitive, but the number one rule in life-saving is do not try to be a hero.
If you see someone drowning, do not rush to save that person, especially if you have not been trained to do so.
Instead, find an object that can float and throw it to the person in distress.
It can be something as simple as a coconut, a child’s floaty or even a plastic bottle with some water in it.
“If you are going to swim out to that person, bring the object with you, ” said professional lifeguard Tsuyoshi Amzar Sawada.
Sawada was giving a primer on surf lifesaving to participants of Perhentian Escape 3, a two-day open water swim camp in Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu.
A certified lifeguard with more than 20 years of experience who once represented Japan in surf lifesaving competitions, Sawada said a person who was drowning gained incredible strength because of the survival instinct.
So, anyone attempting a rescue must refrain from getting into contact with the drowning person.
“A drowning person will try to climb on top of you. You could end up getting dragged into the water with them, ” said the 49-year-old.
“More often than not, people drown because they panic.
“Once they panic, they will exert a lot of energy and get tired very quickly, ” he explained.
He said people often forget that the human body was buoyant in seawater.
“The most important thing is to relax, keep your face out of the water and breathe.
“Wave your hands to signal for help, ” said Sawada, who is also active in the triathlon circuit in the region.
Organised by Swimon, the Perhentian Escape series was conducted over two days: Saturday morning was for coaching while in the afternoon, participants did a 1.6km group swim to a nearby beach.
Sunday was the main event, where participants got to choose to do a 2.5km or 5km swim and a 2km or 7km hike in the trails.
The number of participants were kept to a minimum in line with standard operating procedures.
Participants were given a chance to try stand-up paddle boards that were sometimes used by open water lifeguards for rescue.
Organiser Amirizal Ishak, 51, stressed the importance of water confidence for participants.
“Swimming in the sea is different from swimming in the pool.
“You need to have basic skills such as water treading so that you don’t panic if you need to stop.
“You also need to learn how to sight so that you don’t go off course when swimming, ” said Amir, who is also a swim coach.