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Fourteen-year-old Nipper, Clayton Schilg has been awarded Rescue of the Month for a rescue he performed in January which saved the lives of four people caught in a strong rip on unpatrolled Wooyung Beach.

Clayton and his family, who are from Brisbane, were holidaying at Wooyung Beach on the New South Wales Far North Coast on Thursday 9 January when the incident occurred.

At 2pm a group of holidaymakers from Victoria had decided to go for a swim at the unpatrolled beach. They got stuck in a strong rip and were getting swept out to sea when Clayton heard them shouting for assistance.

Thinking quickly, Clayton grabbed a nearby surfboard and headed into the surf to provide assistance.

There were five swimmers in the group caught in the rip. One man in particular was struggling to stay above the water.

When Clayton reached the man, who was panicking, he tried to grab Clayton and inadvertently pulled him under the water. Clayton’s surf lifesaving training had prepared him to deal with this situation and he was able to free himself.

"One of the guys was in a bad way so I put him on top of the board," Clayton said in an interview with the Tweed Daily News.

"Then I got two to hang onto either side of the board while I pulled it from the front and another man, the brother of the guy on the board, hung onto my waist."

Clayton helped four of the men to shore on the board.

"I knew if I got past the dumpers, I would be fine and catch the white wash," Clayton said.

"They weren't kicking, they were all really tired. I was trying to control the nose from the front of the board and push the nose down into the waves so it didn't flip everyone off. The board was so heavy I couldn't catch the waves in."

Clayton estimated he spent five minutes negotiating the waves and the strong rip current.

The Foamie 'Rescue Board'

One of the Victorian men, 28-year-old holidaymaker Ben Jeffrey, had ingested water and was in a bad way. Clayton put him in the recovery position and a registered nurse staying at the caravan park helped keep him conscious.

Ben Jeffrey later told Clayton that before he was rescued he was so exhausted he was 'within a minute' of giving up.

SLSNSW Far North Coast Duty Officer, Jimmy Keough said that Clayton’s response was remarkable.

“For a junior lifesaver to have the initiative to respond to a large group of people in distress in that way is remarkable,” Jimmy Keough said.

“For him to voluntarily put himself in that situation, but also have the skills and ability to manage it so competently, is outstanding for himself and Surf Life Saving for the training and the skills they give junior lifesavers,” he said.

NSW Ambulance was tasked to assist after a member of the public called triple-zero (000). Jimmy Keough said that NSW Surf Life Saving helped get ambulance four-wheel-drive vehicles onto the beach.

Paramedics stabilised Mr Jeffrey and he was taken to Tweed Heads District Hospital for observation.

NSW Ambulance Paramedics Attend to Ben Jeffrey

The Geelong couple were on their way back from a holiday on the Gold Coast when they visited a friend at the local caravan park and decided to swim at the unpatrolled beach.

"We mistakenly thought it was safe because of the amount of people at the beach," Ms Campbell said in an interview with the Tweed Daily News.

"Time slowed down for me as I watched Clayton bring them back in.

"Ben says he only had another minute in him. He said he had given up, laid on his back and looked at the sky and thought it looked nice. I think 30 more seconds and he had enough,” she said.

Nipper Clayton Schlig

Clayton, who is a Nipper, gives credit to his surf lifesaving club for teaching him with his lifesaving skills.

"The Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club gave me these lifesaving skills when I completed my Surf Rescue Certificate and did rescue scenarios,” Clayton said.

“I recommend everyone who has the chance to join their local SLSC. I couldn't have done it without them,” he said.

Surf Life Saving NSW congratulates Clayton on his remarkable rescue which saved the lives of four people and his Rescue of the Month Award.

The SLSNSW Rescue of the Month aims to recognise excellence in lifesaving. Each month a ‘Rescue of the Month’ is awarded at state-level for the most outstanding rescue performance for that period. Monthly winners have the chance to win the National Rescue of the Month and become finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence. Laerdel are proud supporters of Surf Life Saving NSW. Rescue of the Month winners receive Laerdel gift vouchers as recognition of their achievements. Ten prizes are awarded annually.

Clayton Shlig was awarded SLSNSW Rescue of the Month for January 2020.

Since 1 July 2019 there have been 30 drownings on the NSW coastline. Seventeen of these drownings have occurred over the summer period.


  • Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website

  • Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information

  • Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water

  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm

  • In an emergency, dial Triple Zero Police

  • For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App.

Thursday 19 March