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Two volunteer surf lifesavers from Soldiers Beach on the state’s Central Coast have been awarded the NSW Rescue of the Month Award for October after successfully rescuing an inexperienced teenage surfer.

Matt Neale and Ian McGaw were recognised for their efforts on Sunday 28 October, a date where conditions were so bad that the decision was made to close the beach for much of the day.

After proactively advising people it would be in their best interests to stay out of the water and erecting red warning flags at all public access points, Patrol 4 spent their shift keeping a watchful eye on the few hardy souls who entered the surf.

Shortly before 5pm Patrol Vice Captain Matt Neale was watching a group of young surfers who had entered the surf from the rock platform at the northern end of the beach when he realised one of the males had come off their board and was struggling to keep his head above the waves.

Reacting with the instinct of a trained surf lifesaver, Matt alerted the other members of the patrol to the developing situation and grabbed a rescue board in an effort to assist the stranded surfer back to the safety of the shore.

After negotiating several powerful sets he reached the young man where it quickly became apparent that the 16-year-old was not a strong swimmer.

During the trip back to shore both Matt and the young surfer were knocked off the rescue board by the turbulent backwash which is quite common to the area during powerful conditions.

While the remaining surfers were assisted from the water by the remaining members of the patrol, Matt calmly swam the surfer away from the rock shelf and was assisted by Ian McGaw in doing so.

The two lifesavers spotted a break in conditions and were able to get the surfer safely back to shore.

After talking to the young man and his surfing companions they discovered that he’d never been to Soldiers Beach before and he had only been on a board on a few occasions previously.

Nor were the group aware that the red flags meant the beach was closed.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce congratulated the lifesavers involved for their efforts.

“What this incident highlights is how important it is for our members to not only be aware of the unique challenges of their beach but to proactively watch out for members of the public who can get themselves into trouble.

“It was a classic case of not being familiar with the environment and misreading the conditions, but fortunately the Soldiers Beach team reacted exactly as they were trained to do which helped prevent a tragic outcome,” Mr Pearce said.

After clearing the teenager of any injuries Patrol 4 bade the group farewell with some free advice, and a story to tell.

The SLSNSW Rescue of the Month is a prestigious award that recognises excellence in Surf Life Saving. Each month a ‘Rescue of the Month’ is awarded at State level for the most outstanding rescue performance for that period. Monthly winners are eligible for the National Rescue of the Month, and are also in line to be named the NSW Rescue of the Year which is announced at the season-ending Awards of Excellence.



Friday 7 December 2018