Lone Lifesaver Rescues Nine Swimmers

Avalon Beach lifesaver, Adriaan Van Der Wallen has rescued at least nine people at once in an incredible mass rescue while on holidays at Forster.

The 47 year old father of three who is a member at both Palm Beach and Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Clubs was returning from a family holiday in the area when they decided to stop off at Tuncurry Rock Pool for a swim.

A freak two wave set washed through the small beach, immediately sweeping a group of 12-14 Indian tourists playing in the shore out to sea.

Adriaan noticed that they were in trouble and without thinking grabbed his daughter’s nipper board and paddled out towards the group.

A keen surfer, lifesaver and experienced board racing competitor, it didn’t take long for Adriaan to reach the group where he grabbed the four youngest kids first followed by another three men nearby and told them all to hang onto the straps on his daughter’s board.

“I was really acting on instinct and adrenaline and all my training and experience just took over but there were still a lot of people in trouble who were out of reach of the board,” he said.

While his wife was on the beach finding help for him to assist with the rescue, Adriaan ordered the seven people on his board to hold on while he swam over to rescue another two women who were screaming for help.

“The women were in a panic and actually flipped the board over when they reached it. Luckily I was able to get everyone to stay calm and I flipped the board over and regained control,” explained Adriaan.

While another bystander on the beach got the remaining swimmers to sure, Adriaan paddled his board in a super human effort with nine people clinging to it finally reaching the safety of land.

“When I hit the sand, it was such a relief to feel the sand under my feet. I won’t forget that feeling anytime soon,” he said.

In reflection, Adriaan realises how lucky those swimmers were that an experienced lifesaver just happened to be nearby when they were washed out to sea and wants his kids to be qualified and experienced enough to be able to one day do the same thing.

“For me the beach is a lot more than just a lifestyle, it’s my whole life. My kids will be going through the Nippers program at Avalon Beach SLSC and they love the beach as much as me. I want them to learn everything there is to know about the surf and possibly be able to help others one day too.”

Wed 30 Apr 2014