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Max Taylor from Wamberal SLSC on the Central Coast is just 11 years old. He showed life skills and rescue experience beyond his years when he pulled a swimmer from a deadly rip current in March.

Growing up on the sand and in the waves as a Nipper and member of the Wamberal Express Boardriders club, Max knows his beach well. “He’s grown up in the waves,” said Max’s Dad James. “He knows Wamberal, really understands the beach, and he’s a fit kid.”

Little did Max or his Dad know, this local knowledge, fitness and skill would be unexpectedly thrown into action to save a life.

At 5.30pm on Tuesday 12 March 2019, Max paddled in, returning to shore from an after school surf at Wamberal. He headed across the beach to the carpark where he expected he would meet his Dad, but was distracted when he heard someone calling for help.

Max recalls looking around to identify where the cries were coming from and seeing a group of people on their phones calling Triple 000. Beyond the group he noticed a swimmer struggling in a rip current. “I’d just come in and thought I could help,” said Max.

With council lifeguard patrols over for the day and no other surfers in the water, Max took it on himself to attempt a rescue, using his experience and knowledge of the surf to assess the situation and paddle out to the swimmer.

“I felt really confident. I’m in the water every single day even in winter so I’ve built up my skills,” Max said.

The tide was low and the wave size was about a metre and breaking heavily on the sandbank. The testing conditions forced Max to be smart with how he used the rip to his advantage to get to the patient as quickly as possible.

After negotiating the break, Max paddled out to the swimmer and looking back at the shore, noticed he was almost 150 metres from the beach.

The swimmer was panicking and fatiguing fast. Max got off his board and pushed it over to his patient to put space between them so he wasn’t dragged underwater. He then instructed the patient to climb onto the board.

After he had the patient balanced and floating on the board, Max pushed and kicked the board from behind back to shore. Despite being a fit waterman, Max admitted that assisting the adult male on the board was tough and wore him out. “There was one point on the way back in that I got really tired and puffed out, but I saw Harry running down and he came to help me,” said Max.

Off-duty Central Coast lifeguard Harry Carpenter as well as a fellow surfer and member of Wamberal SLSC assisted Max as he arrived back onshore. The group ensured both the patient and rescuer were ok before talking to the patient about how he got into trouble.

He admitted this was his first swim in Australia and that he had just dropped everything on the beach and walked into the water. The man was exhausted from the experience but overwhelmingly thankful for the fast response from young Max Taylor.

Unaware of the incident, Max’s Dad watched a group of adults on the beach chatting to his son while he waited in the car. “He was standing there chatting away and I thought it was funny that they were shaking his hand,” said James. “He had a huge smile on his face as he walked up to the car. Harry walked up with him and told me what he’d done. I was really overwhelmed by it. He’d paddled out and plucked a full grown man out of the water.”

After nominating Max for the Rescue of the Month award, Wamberal SLSC member Wayne Young spoke of the enormous contribution Max makes to his community on and off the beach. “We’re very proud of Max. He’s learnt so many skills as a Nipper and in his Boardriders club,” he said. “It is truly admirable that an 11 year-old could have the maturity to assess the risk to himself and know the extent of his own skill to save someone on his own.”

James said his son is very humble but hopes he understands the significance of what he was able to do and how proud everyone is of his actions.

Max said, “I felt really happy that I saved someone’s life. It made me feel proud.”

Max was awarded SLSNSW Rescue of the Month for March 2019.


Tuesday 11 June 2019