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Surf Life Saving NSW has praised the quick thinking and excellent teamwork of a group of volunteers who leapt to the assistance of four foreign swimmers who were caught in a rip after hours at Bondi beach on Tuesday 30 January.

An Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) Racing training session became anything but just moments after the group of about 20 volunteer lifesavers had pulled the ‘rubber duck’ out of the water and part way up the beach, when a member of the public alerted them to an incident unfolding not far from their location at around 7.15pm.

The lifesavers from various clubs across Sydney, including Bondi SBLSC, Coogee SLSC and Elouera SLSC, reacted quickly and, despite having never patrolled or worked together before, were able to successfully rescue the four struggling swimmers and triage them appropriately on the beach.

One swimmer was semi-conscious when pulled from the water, but following first aid delivery on the beach, no CPR was required.

It would come to light following the rescue that two of the swimmers, later understood to be Vietnamese students, had become stuck in the rip current and a further two of their friends entered the water to assist them.

Lifesavers were able to wade into the ocean to help in bringing two of them back to shore, while the other two were rescued from further out by the IRB.

Nicole Krite of Bondi SBLSC, who was running the IRB Racing training session, said she was proud of how seamlessly the rescue ran.

“Most of us had not worked together before and some of the young lifesavers had never done a rescue, but everyone just assumed a role and got it done,” she said.

“I had volunteers on the beach after the event saying they didn’t feel like they did much, but we all had a job, and we were all part of making sure those people go home to their families. It was a great collaborative effort.

“It just goes to show there’s such great consistency of training across Sydney Branch, that members from different clubs can come together, perform a rescue and work together for the best outcome.”

Jade Melvey-Lester, a member of North Bondi SLSC who was participating in the race training, said it was her first major rescue needing oxygen to be administered.

“I’m happy that everyone knew what to do and it ended as best it could,” she said.

“I only recently got my (IRB) crew licence and I was glad I’ve gotten the extra hours up over the past few weeks in the IRB through the training, it gave me and the others that extra bit of confidence in the water.

“I think everyone snapped into rescue mode when we realised what was happening and we all supported each other.”

SLSNSW CEO, Steve Pearce said that while he was proud of the volunteers and their quick reactions, it was another sage reminder to understand your limitations and avoid swimming outside of patrol hours.

“We have had many after-hours rescues across the summer and this rescue last night, while a fantastic outcome, is also very fortunate that we had lifesavers on site at the time,” he said.

“Every drowning so far this summer has occurred at an unpatrolled location, outside of patrol hours or away from the red and yellow flags.

“It’s so important, as a general rule but even more so if you’re not a confident swimmer, that beachgoers avoid swimming outside of patrol hours where our assets are not as readily available.”

Wednesday 31 January 2024