Watch out for this Ironman and Lifesaver – he dreams big.


Sanele Nxumalo hails from Lamontville Durban, he’s a professional lifeguard, an Ironman, is only 23 and already has a string of achievements to his name. His physique resembles a modern-day Viking and he has an unbounded ambition to clinch the Surf Lifesaving National Title. Amanzi gets to know this determined youngster and finds out how he aims to realise his dreams.

Q: What made you choose lifesaving and how did you start lifesaving?
I was introduced to lifesaving by my friends at eThekwini Surf Lifesaving Club. It was the first club I joined, and it was only for fun. I only planned to work part-time and not become a competitor. However, as I learned more about surf and I started improving, I also started to take it seriously. That’s when I decided to join Durban Surf Lifesaving Club

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Q: What achievements have you had in your lifesaving career?

Lifeguard Endurance Champion
This is an annual competition for professional lifeguards on the 1st Friday of December. It consists of 3 swim-run-swim legs (800m swim, 2km beach run, 800m swim). It’s only for bragging rights and to say who’s the ‘King of the Beach’. It’s very hard and competitive. I am lucky to have won it four times in a row and I am going for my fifth time this year!

Surf swim finalist at rescue 2016. (Netherlands)
I participated in the World lifesaving championships in the Netherlands. My goal was to make the surf swim final, but I didn’t and I wasn’t happy with the outcome. I have moved on from that and am now focussed on the World Lifesaving Champs in Australia this December.

Four Elements Ocean Challenge
Considered Durban’s most iconic 5km open water swim. Nxumalo was placed 2nd in 2015 and 2017 and 3rd in 2016.

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25 Piers Surf Swim Challenge 2015
It’s considered the world’s toughest surf / swim and requires swimmers to circumvent Durban’s Pier 25 times over a distance of 7.6km. Nxumalo clinched 2nd place.

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(L:R) Luke Nisbet (Pirates SLC), Wade Krieger (Durban Surf Coach), Sanele Nxumalo. Photo credit: Brian Spur Photography 2017

Sanele has excelled in the SA Stillwater Series from 2014 through to 2017. He is particularly prominent in the Ironman board swim, taking the podium in 2017. In 2016 he won the 1,9km surf category in the Miway Series and in the swim/run at the Multe swimathlone series

Q: What are the challenges competing in Lifesaving?
Funding! It’s very expensive to travel overseas and compete against the world’s best. Our sport isn’t very well-funded, so we struggle a lot. I am very fortunate to have Durban Surf Lifesaving backing me when required as they have paid for all my trips since day one.

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Photo credit: Topfoto

Q: Do you have a mentor / a hero – who and why?
My mentor is obviously my coach Wade Krieger. He’s a former professional Ironman and now he’s mentoring me into being one of the best. I’m very content with where I am now. I have also had the privilege of racing against him. This has taught me a lot and I’ve adopted his style of racing. Another hero to me is Sticks Mthiyane who is a multiple gold medallist in international and local championships. He was the fastest man in the world for years and I admire him.  “Sanele is a dedicated individual with a great attitude. He has the talent to race anyone in South Africa in the Ironman, Board and the Swim at a high level. He can doubt himself before a big race, but in 2017/2018 he has demonstrated that he can step up and adopt a high-performance attitude to win races. He has the potential to reach top 3 or even take a National Title.” Comments Krieger. 

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Q: How do you stay fit and competitive?
I swim and train ski and board about 4 times a week. And I gym and run as well. To stay in peak condition, I must follow this routine every week consistently throughout the year. I race a lot of long distance surf swims which helps keep my swimming up to speed. And the rest I do with Wade at North Beach in the mornings.

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Photo credit: Topfoto

Q: What are your goals for the next 2 years?
My goal for the next 2 years is to win national titles that’s it!

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Q: If you could give some advice to any young up and coming lifesavers what would it be?
Enjoy the sport. It’s the most fun sport you will get to do. It’s not always easy to master the surf and it can be very frustrating. A lot of people quit once they reach the senior level of competition. At this level, you are up against some world-class club competitors in South Africa. Some elite pool swimmers enter competitions just for the surf swim titles. Canoeists also compete in the surf ski races. As Ironmen competitors, who participate in every single event and still must keep up with the stiff competition, it can get too taxing. However, if you are consistent, you get results.

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Q: What is your life mantra?
Don’t take your foot off the gas

Spoken like a true champion. We will be watching Nxumalo in the forthcoming World Lifesaving Champs in Adelaide, South Australia from 6 November to 2 December 2018. Just keep your foot on the gas and you’ll be going places!

Author: Reporter @ Amanzi

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