Clifton’s an af­flu­ent jol

Thou­sands of happy lo­cals and rich tourists flock to the beach dur­ing the hol­i­days, where they are tended to by ice cream sell­ers and tanned life­guards

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUIS­MAN bi­enne.huis­man@city­

He’s a seis­mic sur­vey boat skip­per by trade, but in sum­mer Peter Cullen vol­un­teers as a life­guard on Cape Town’s Clifton 4th Beach – with its plat­inum real es­tate, gran­ite boul­ders and translu­cent waves. One of South Africa’s most af­flu­ent sea-fac­ing sub­urbs, Clifton – with its four beaches flanked by mul­ti­mil­lion-rand bun­ga­lows and glass apart­ment blocks – is known as a play­ground for the world’s rich and fa­mous.

In sum­mer, it be­comes a small trad­ing hub for megawealthy tourists and lo­cal busi­ness folk. On the beach, 500ml bot­tles of wa­ter, chocolate ice creams and granadilla lol­lies sell for R20 each.

Cullen is a fix­ture on Clifton 4th. Two days be­fore City Press meets him, he pulled a drown­ing man from the sea.

“The man was on a stand-up board and fell off,” says Cullen. “He pan­icked, as the wa­ter was cold and he couldn’t swim. I raced to him through the wa­ter and reached him in time though, so for­tu­nately we didn’t have to do CPR.”

Cullen (45), who grew up in Blou­bergstrand, says life-saving is about read­ing pat­terns.

“You learn this over the years. For ex­am­ple, when peo­ple scat­ter and move away quickly, there is usu­ally trou­ble.

“Also, you can tell which peo­ple are less com­fort­able in the sea, so you pay ex­tra at­ten­tion to those.”

Out of the waves, the cold wa­ter, ice creams and ice lol­lies are sell­ing like hot cakes.

“It’s con­ve­nience,” says Al­lis­ter Kemp (42), who has sold ice cream and cooldrink on the beach for the past 23 years.

“Ba­si­cally, we of­fer room ser­vice – but on the beach. I mean, it’s plenty of lo­gis­tics too – keep­ing the stuff cold and trans­port­ing it here.”

Kemp lives in Hei­de­veld, 22km away, with his five chil­dren and for­mer wife. He drives to the coast ev­ery morn­ing at 8am in a bakkie with five other peo­ple who hold city coun­cil per­mits to sell re­fresh­ments on the beach.

“My job is a plea­sure. I can swim when I want to, rest when I want to. Some­times my kids come to visit me on the beach – but on the really busy days, they can’t.”

In the win­ter, Kemp earns his liv­ing weld­ing se­cu­rity gates.

Wip­ing sweat from his face as the mer­cury climbs, Kemp reaches for a tube of sun­block stowed in a moon bag strapped around his belly.

He points out reg­u­lars on the beach. “See that couple? They’re Dutch and have been com­ing here for 10 years. The friendli­est peo­ple. The man is quite fat – al­ways buy­ing chocolate ice cream.”

Just the other day, Kemp found an An­golan woman’s white gold and di­a­mond ring that she’d lost on the beach. The woman and her hus­band paid him a R1 000 re­ward, he says.

Fur­ther afield, Faizal Khan (56), a fa­ther of three from Mitchells Plain, re­clines on a deck chair sur­vey­ing the throng. He rents out up to 100 um­brel­las a day at R30 each.

“I used to bring the um­brel­las here ev­ery day in a bakkie my son brought me, car­ry­ing them up and down the steps to the beach. But from this year on, I have ac­cess to stor­age here, so that helps a lot,” he says.

Khan is one of about 40 peo­ple with city coun­cil per­mits who rent out beach fur­ni­ture along the At­lantic Seaboard coast­line. He starts in Oc­to­ber and mon­i­tors the weather closely each day.

Kabamba de Kock (23) from Val­halla Park helps him dis­trib­ute the um­brel­las. Smil­ing, he speaks about his work rou­tine, which, ear­lier this year, in­cluded play­ing beach rugby with fa­mous beach­go­ers Bryan Ha­bana and Schalk Burger.

“Bryan is here of­ten. When­ever he comes, he makes a big tent cave with his wife so no one can recog­nise them. They’re very pri­vate,” says De Kock.

Of­ten, home­less peo­ple who sleep in the caves in the cliffs be­tween the wealthy sub­urbs of Bantry Bay and Clifton help De Kock and Khan carry um­brel­las in ex­change for spare cash.

Down by the waves, Cullen is as­sisted by fel­low life­guard Peter John Hol­land (18). The two are perched on a storey-high steel con­struc­tion look­ing out over the bustling sea, where they en­sure peo­ple swim be­tween two red flags.

Hol­land taught him­self to swim in the pub­lic pool next to his fam­ily’s home in Bon­te­heuwel on the Cape Flats. He ma­tric­u­lated at Arcadia Sec­ondary School and qual­i­fied at the Mnandi Life­sav­ing Club. He will join the army this month and hopes to of­fer swim­ming lessons on the side.

Af­ter a quick dip, Hol­land says he doesn’t do life­sav­ing for the girls or the money.

“I love it. I used to be scared of sharks. But while train­ing with the Na­tional Sea Res­cue In­sti­tute a while ago, I was dropped out at sea for half an hour. Float­ing alone, I con­fronted th­ese fears,” he says.

A DAY’S WORK A life-saver dives into the wa­ter on Clifton 4th Beach in Cape Town. Th­ese su­per­fit peo­ple watch­ers keep swim­mers safe in the frigid wa­ters


PACKED De­spite its icy wa­ter, Clifton 4th Beach is fre­quented dur­ing the De­cem­ber hol­i­days by lo­cals and tourists

SUN AND SWEETS Rachel Lewis (13) and Clau­dia Booy­sen (16) from Mitchells Plain enjoy their treats

SHARP EYES Life-savers Peter Cullen (top left) and Peter John Hol­land

WEL­COME RE­LIEF Al­lis­ter Kemp sells ice cream on Clifton 4th Beach

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