Rebelsessions through the lens: #Gunsafety – Paris Basson


Neil Webster is standing in a room surrounded by paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. Seated in front of him is the Rebel Session’s safety expert. “It’s my son’s 2nd birthday party today.” Says the subject proudly. “There’s going to be a crowd of toddlers at my house……so no rush.” He laughs. “Take as long as you want.”

Webster is fiddling with the lighting panel just outside of his camera frame and comes dangerously close to knocking one of the paintings off the wall. “Don’t bump anything hey.” Says the Jet Ski pilot. “Break it, you buy it! No discounts.” He laughs ruefully. Neil looks sheepish as he asks his first question. “Who are you? What do you do and where are you from?” The Jet Ski pilot shoots a quick glance at the painting Webster nearly bumped off the wall and says. “My name is Paris Basson and we’re in my WIFE’S art gallery. Kommetjie is our home town. It’s where we live the dream.”

Webster clears his throat self-consciously. “So, you’re a slab surfer - a heavy wave charger? How important is water safety to you?” Paris smiles. “It’s essential! Especially when you have a group of guys who are pushing their limits, hard. We’ve been lucky not to have lost a life so far. Safety is number 1. Having a ski out there now, means there’s always a pair of eyes watching the guys. The ski allows us to keep it a lot safer.”

Webster checks his camera focus as he asks. “So, where did you learn your rescue skills?” Paris looks serious. “An American rescue specialist, Shawn Alladio, came out in 2001. She was the first person to teach us about proper procedure. She treated rescue as a job. She wrote the text book on how to do it. She provided the foundation for our knowledge. She taught me to make good decisions when everything goes wrong. Before that, we just wanted to go big and go home.” Webster nods. “Ok, so how important was it for the Cape Town guys to…….?”(Paris’s phone is ringing. It’s his wife Carrie. He answers.) “Ja, ja, ok, ja, hmmmm, ja, ok, ja ok.” He says into the phone, then hangs up and says. “20 kids at my house for the party bru, so taaaa-ke your time.” Neil chuckles. “Ok, so how did Alladio’s instruction impact your crew?” He asks. “Alladio allowed us to push the limits for the first time. We learned to trust our tow partners. Suddenly we went riding from paddling 15-25ft waves, to towing 30-40ft waves.” Webster clears his throat again and asks. “So, do you think guys go harder with a safety ski out there?” Basson furrows his brow and looks concerned. “Some guys do. But for me, you shouldn’t take risks just because there’s a ski in the line-up. That’s a stupid way of thinking. At best, a ski is meant to be second back up. There are so many factors that could prevent a ski assisted rescue. A surfer’s confidence should come from their experience.”

Webster is looking serious too now, as he asks. “Should there be a dedicated program that guys follow or are taught?” Paris nods his head for emphasis. “Yes, there should be. In life threatening waves you need to know the protocols. That should be standardised.” Webster nods approvingly and asks. “So, do you think the big wave line-ups are more crowed because of the wave runners?” Paris’s tone of voice changes slightly. “No, skis are not the reason for more surfers.” He answers. “But, they have made spots more accessible. We all have more media access these days which increases exposure. We used to have to walk in and paddle out to some spots. Now the skis get us there easier.”

Webster’s questions are finished. “Anything else you want to say?” Paris suddenly gets animated. “Yes, I had a near death experience towing a few years ago.” Webster’s ears prick up. “Ok.” He says. “Talk about that!” Paris gets that same concerned look again. “It was HUGE. We towed into some 40-50ft waves at Dungeons, then came across to Sunset. It was breaking in a way that we’d never seen before. I got a good one, then we lost our rope, so I jumped onto another ski. I was whipped into a huge thing. I was locked in. It grew wider and wider as it hit the reef, till it engulfed me in the centre. I had 2 life jackets AND an impact vest on, but I went down like I had nothing on at all. It was very deep. It felt like I was held under for minutes. When I came up, the waves were everywhere. Sunset gives a worse beating than Dungeons. I got caught in the middle of the giant ‘V’. When you’re in that V, the beatings keep getting worse as the reef gets shallower. I was hit 5 more times by 30 feet of white water, before a ski got to me.” He suddenly laughs out loud and concludes. “I would probably think twice about doing that again…..”

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