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A group of young surf lifesavers from Redhead Surf Life Saving Club in the Hunter region recently received a Rescue of the Month Award from Surf Life Saving NSW for saving the lives of three people caught in a rip.

On 28 November 2019, Nicholas White, Lily Kennedy-Myers and Jet Hoffman were all taking part in a board training session. It had been an anything but routine training session for the group. Surf conditions were big - with five-foot swell and big rips along the beach. There was a lot of wind and chop which was making training difficult for the squad.

At the same time, around 5.30pm, local Redhead resident Neil Dalby was walking his dog on the bluff high above the beach. He had been watching the young surf lifesavers’ board training session when something caught his attention.

“I saw four, young, sixteen-year-old boys run down the beach and jump into the water where there’s a strong current - and they got into trouble straight away. I was waving and shouting but nobody could hear me down on the beach,” said Neil Dalby.

“At the last moment, one of the boys in the board training squad must have seen what was going on and went straight out into the current to rescue the boys. He was out to them in about 10 seconds.

“By then a young girl in the squad saw what was going on and was straight out there too. She grabbed one of the guys. And then a younger kid, a little guy, paddled out to help too. Then the coach went out.

“It was a mass rescue and I was totally relieved when I saw what was going on because I couldn’t do a darn thing from where I was up on the bluff. Nobody on the beach could have done a darn thing so the guys were very lucky the group was board training that day.”

Nicholas White, who was part of the board training squad that day, was the first to respond when he saw the boys struggling in the rip.

“We were finishing a race and coming in when we noticed someone in trouble. So I went out on my board as quick as I could,” said Nick.

“The rip they were going out in was a severe rip, probably 30 metres wide, being fed by the large north-east swell coming across the beach. It was a big rip,” said Nick.

“I was immediately thinking where the waves were and the quickest way I could get out to the boys in the surf. So I ran down to a slight rip to try and get out to them quicker.

“I was immediately assessing the conditions and the state of the guys I was rescuing. My training kicked in so I knew exactly what to do. I’ve done partial rescues before but nothing major.

“One of the boys was in quite a bit of trouble, struggling quite significantly. So he jumped on my board and I paddled him in,” Nick said.

Lily Kennedy-Myers, who was also board training that day, quickly followed Nick out to assist with the rescue.

“This was my first rescue and I was really scared when I first saw them out there. But then my confidence kicked in knowing I had done so much training for it,” said Lily.

“Once I had him on my board, I was relieved because he was safe and with me. But then I had to get him in to shore and that was another challenge in itself,” said Lily.

Nicholas and Lily paddled two of the boys back to shore while Jet Hoffman, who was also training, paddled his nipper board over to assist the third boy, who was treading water.

“I paddled one of the guys out of the rip and away from the rocks. But he was a big guy and too big for my board – he would have sunk it. So I just let him hang onto it and have a rest,” said Jet Hoffman.

Ray Terrill, the young lifesavers’ board coach, arrived to assist Jet and help the third swimmer back to the beach. He said that the board squad responded very quickly to the situation.

“It was a situation where our kids could spot the danger early and we’re extremely proud that they could see the danger developing,” said Ray Terrill.

“They could see the danger the boys were getting themselves into. We’re proud our kids could assist these young men who were in trouble.

“Sadly to say, if it wasn’t for our club members going to their aid, there would have been at least one fatality that day. If not more,” said Ray Terrill.

Jet, Lily and Nick said that they have received a terrific response to their rescue.

“My parents were very excited and happy that I’d done the rescue and, well, they are still talking about it to other people,” said Jet.

“I’m very excited that I’ve just done a rescue. That’s why I do Nippers. And I’ve always had a great feeling about saving someone’s life,” said Jet.

“Winning Rescue of the Month has propelled me to go further into Surf Life Saving – going on for years to come,” said Jet.

Neil Dalby, who watched the rescue from the bluff above Redhead beach, is still in awe of the mass rescue he witnessed the Redhead board squad perform that day.

“I thought these guys, who’d gotten into trouble, were very lucky that the guys were out there doing squad work,” said Neil Dalby.

“What got me was that after the rescue the coach got the squad together to debrief on what had just happened. And then boom, off they were, back down the beach doing their training again.

“You can measure the value of surf clubs to the community in lives saved. What cost is a life? That’s the importance of it,” he said.

George Shales, President of Surf Life Saving NSW, said that the young lifesavers’ timely and efficient response to the critical incident was a credit to themselves and to the training the Redhead Surf Life Saving Club had given them.

“Thanks to their training, teamwork and skill, they saved the lives of three people. They have every right to feel enormously proud of their achievements and the Rescue of the Month Award is due recognition,” said George Shales.

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.

Thursday 6 February 2020