After earning a spot on the United States National Lifesaving team in August, junior Isabella Taylor made her way to Durban, South Africa to represent the country at the International Surf Rescue Challenge Sept. 28 to Oct. 3.
Although she had met some of her fellow competitors at the qualifying competition last month, Taylor was largely unfamiliar with her teammates. As a competitor in the youth division, all of Taylor’s teammates fell into the 15-18 age range. Upon arriving in South Africa, Taylor met the rest of the team, many of whom were from states with easy access to the ocean, such as California, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii and, of course, Florida. Since several events relied on coordination and team dynamics, the team made it a priority to arrive before the competition began to take time to get to know each other.
Over the three days of competition, Taylor participated in more events than anyone else on the team, competing in the paddleboard rescue/relay, swim run, swim relay, rescue tube, surf/ski and Ironguard events. However, the waves of the Indian Ocean did not cooperate with the event schedule, and, with waves up to ten feet tall, forced the competition organizers to cancel one day of events. Taylor noted that the team tried their best to adjust themselves to the new waters, making it a point to practice breathing exercises and warm up extensively.
“The competition for everyone was more about strategy and how to deal [with the waves] instead of how fast you are,” Taylor said.
When she wasn’t competing, Taylor and her teammates took advantage of the competition’s location, learning about the cultures of South Africa, visiting tourist sites and going on safaris.
“It was a really different place to travel to because it opened my eyes to different perspectives,” Taylor said. “It was an eye-opening experience.”
The United States youth team earned fourth place overall at the competition, and Taylor placed individually in three events, taking home a sixth place trophy in the surf/ski event, eighth place in the paddleboard event and fourth place as a part of the paddle rescue team.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip and meet all these people from different countries,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely pushed me harder to work for next year’s competition.”
Taylor looks forward to the 2020 competition, which will take place in Italy.