Brave Naomi bids to be a lifeguard on Croyde beach where her boyfriend lost his life
THE girlfriend of a man who died after getting into difficulties while surfing at a North Devon beach is set to honour his memory by becoming a lifesaver herself. Naomi Fox has been unable to set foot in the water at Croyde since her partner Trevor Harvey
THE girlfriend of a man who died after getting into difficulties while surfing at a North Devon beach is set to honour his memory by becoming a lifesaver herself.
Naomi Fox has been unable to set foot in the water at Croyde since her partner Trevor Harvey died nearly three years ago.
Trevor, who was 33, was pulled from the water by surfers after being swept out to sea in a rip current, in a massive swell on October 22, 2006.
Despite being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the beach, the builder, from Congresbury, in Somerset, never regained consciousness. He was airlifted to North Devon District Hospital, where he died two weeks later.
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But on Friday, brave Naomi, 33, also from Congresbury near Weston-super-Mare, summoned the courage to get back in the water at Croyde in her bid to begin patrolling the beaches with the RNLI next spring.
Having qualified as a swimming instructor with Barnstaple-based Aquarius Swim School in July, she is now undergoing the final chapter in a long training regime to earn her National Aquatic Rescue Standard (NaRS) beach lifeguard qualification - part of a promise to do everything she can to promote water safety and ensure fewer people go through similar heartache.
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"When Trev died, I pledged that I would not only pass my lifeguard award, but that I would work as a lifeguard on beaches in North Devon," Naomi told the Gazette.
"If we had both joined surf life saving clubs when we started surfing, we'd have had much greater knowledge of the sea. We wouldn't have gone in the water that day and Trev would probably still be here today.
"This is why I am going to carry on promoting and publicising surf life saving - not just to people living on the coast, but to those in inland areas too."
Naomi's journey to become a lifeguard has been as emotional as it has long; it has been a voyage often tinged with depression and, poignantly, one she has undertaken with the man who tried to resuscitate her boyfriend on that fateful October day.
Now her training mentor, Richard Windsor was one of the first on the scene and tirelessly battled in vain to save Trevor's life. Since the tragedy, Richard, chairman of Croyde Surf Life Saving Club, has supported Naomi and a will be on hand to guide her through the final stages of her training during the next few weeks.
"Although Naomi has been swimming in the sea at other beaches, getting back in the water at Croyde was a big psychological step for her," said Richard, 60.
"You have to be able to swim 400metres in seven-and-a-half minutes to become a lifeguard and she can do that quite easily; she is a very good swimmer and although there are quite a lot of other skills she will have to develop, Naomi is very able to do it and I'm sure we can get her through."
"She has been very supportive of the club since her boyfriend's accident; it was an extremely traumatic thing for her to go through but very inspiring to see her take something so positive from the experience.
"Surf life saving clubs quietly sit in the back ground and don't often get the credit for teaching people important lifesaving skills, so what Naomi is doing to promote the club and its activities is fantastic," he added.
In her bid to become a professional lifeguard, Naomi, who runs her own garden design business, has put her life on hold to spend hours in the gym and pool, swimming around 15,000metres a week and making countless trips to North Devon from her home in Somerset.
Although she used to swim competitively for Weston-Super-Mare as a youngster, she is only too aware of the challenges open water swimming can present and will now be getting used to various surf lifesaving equipment including surf skis and paddle boards.
Naomi has also raised thousands of pounds for Croyde Surf Life Saving Club. Now a member herself - and of Surf Life Saving Great Britain - she has already represented Croyde at "still water" competition level and is in training for the Masters nationals in February next year.
"It's strange but since Trev died, my whole life has revolved around the water; I love and respect the ocean more now than ever," she said.
"While Trev's mum doesn't like to be by the coast any more and feels angry with the sea for taking her son, I don't feel anger or blame and get huge comfort from being in or by the sea.
"I have had so much fun and made wonderful friends while training; in the early stages - particularly when some of the training was very raw and close to home - members gave me enormous support.
"As well as being great places for adults and young people to socialise and learn about water safety, surf life saving club training improves fitness and confidence. Surf life saving is the only rescue service to make a sport of its activities and club members of all ages regularly take part in seniors masters and nippers pool and sea competitions.
"It has taken longer than I was hoping but I am about to finally earn my qualifications and could be working on Croyde beach for the RNLI next spring."
For more information about Croyde Surf Life Saving Club, visit www.croydesurflifesavingclub.co.uk