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The life saving rescue of a 32-year-old rock fisher, who was swept into the water without a life jacket, has been awarded the Surf Life Saving NSW Rescue of the Month for March 2020.

At 10am on Sunday 22 March, two men in their early 30s - believed to be from Marylands in Newcastle - were rock fishing at a remote location near Boulder Bay, Port Stephens when they were swept off rocks by a large wave.

Two people, who were nearby and witnessed the incident, threw life jackets to the men. Unfortunately, only one of the men was able to grab a lifejacket.

The Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) State Operations Centre was notified by a call to Triple-0 (000) requesting assistance and immediately tasked the Port Stephens Support Operations Team and the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter to the incident. A jetski and an IRB (inflatable rescue boat) were tasked to the scene and quickly proceeded to Boulder Bay.

The SLSNSW RWC (jetski) operator, Ben Freund, arrived on scene first and rescued the man wearing the life jacket. He then grabbed the second man who was now unconscious and pulled him onto the jetski sled.

A short time later a lifeguard from One Mile Beach arrived on a jetski and the Fingal SLSC IRB, crewed by James Worrall and Glen Dunkley, arrived on scene and the unconscious man was transferred into the IRB for assessment and treatment. Unfortunately, the man could not be revived.

The survivor, who had managed to grab a lifejacket before being rescued, was taken to One Mile Beach where an ambulance transferred him to hospital in a stable condition for treatment.

Surf Life Saving NSW Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman, commended the response of the volunteer surf lifesavers.

“While this is a tragic incident, had it not been for the swift response of our surf lifesavers and the fast deployment of multiple lifesaving assets, a second life may have been lost,” said Joel Wiseman.

“Our lifesavers worked in tandem with lifeguards and we’re extremely proud of their efforts. They are very deserving recipients of the Rescue of the Month award,” he said.

The Port Stephens Local Government Area (LGA) is a Declared Area where the wearing of a lifejacket is mandatory when rock fishing. Failing to wear an appropriate lifejacket while rock fishing in a declared area may result in a $100 on the spot fine. 

Surf Life Saving NSW extends its condolences to the family and friends of the deceased man.

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. Twelve prizes are awarded annually.

The volunteer lifesavers​ were awarded SLSNSW Rescue of the Month for March 2020.


  • Check the weather, surf conditions and tides before going fishing

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back

  • Always wear a lifejacket

  • Wear appropriate non-slip footwear and light clothing

  • Always fish with a friend

  • Check the warnings signs for information about the area

  • Never turn your back to the water

  • Do not try and retrieve anything that has fallen into the water

  • Do not jump in if someone falls into the water - wait for assistance or throw an ‘Angel Ring’ or Lifebuoy if there is one nearby

  • Additionally, boaters are urged to always check conditions prior and to log on with their local Marine Rescue Base via radio or using the Marine Rescue App. Visit for more information

  • Call Triple Zero – Police to report an in-water emergency.