Not long after I moved to Australia, Paul and I decided to celebrate my anniversary on a beautiful beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. Unlike many birthdays back in Europe (winter time) It wasn’t those great, grey waves that sucked me towards it and then broke across like a sack of gravel. I didn’t bounce along the seabed, either. It was the perfect summer day, absolutely stunning, small waves breaking close to shore, ideal for body surf.
We spent ages catching waves and having heaps of fun with no one else in the water.
At that time, like many other expats and tourists, I barely understood the power of rips , especially in Australia. When I tried to go back to shore, I quickly realised that a snapping current was sweeping me out to sea in the blink of an eye.
I tried to fight my way back to the beach. It was hopeless.
Desperate for air, I was churned around until I no longer knew up from down. Then the current relaxed its grip and up I went, just in time for gasp of air before been sucked down again.
Each time I surfaced, the process repeated itself, until I was battered and winded, and still out of my depth. I swallowed water, tried not to breathe it in, while trying to call out to Paul. He was having a great time. I could see him catching waves. From his perspective, it probably looked as if I was larking around, diving into the waves; waving but certainly not drowning.
Then it really struck me that I was actually about to drown and no one knew. I experienced an acute sense of loneliness and isolation as another wave thrust me down. As I struggled, pain bloomed at the top of my chest. I thought that would be my lungs giving out. “that’s it!” I thought.
And literally out of the blue I felt something strong grabbing me. I will never forget Paul’s face in that moment. He dragged me to shore while I laid down trying to breath, Paul ran back out to the water to rescue another girl that had been caught in the same riptide not long entering the water.
Paul and so many other surfers and swimmers have rescued people on quiet days out of surf patrol hours or supervision. Surfers are often first in line to help someone struggling in the water. Recognising this, and offering a way for us all to improve our rescue and response skills, Surfing NSW is offering a free Surfers Rescue 24/7 course. What a great idea that should be implemented Australia and worldwide.