A frustrated lifesaver whose teenaged training crew rescued a father and son on Monday says the tourists treated “a death pit” as if it were a “play yard”.
Darren Phillips was supervising in “diabolical” surf at South Broulee when a training session turned deadly serious for Billy Hughes-Tweedie, 17, and Ben McKay, 19.
“It was hairy for us, but that is what we train for,” Mr Phillips said.
“For a member of the public who did not look like he could swim very well to put himself and his family in that position, was crazy.
“They should not have been there. It is an unpatrolled beach, it looked like an absolute washing machine, but he ran down and jumped in the water like it was some little play yard.
“It was a death pit. He was on his way out to sea.”
The pair were picked up about 35 metres off shore.
Mr McKay rescued the boy, thought to be 12-years-old, while Billy helped the father, thought to weigh about 100kg, onto his board and safely ashore.
Mr Phillips did not believe the father understood how lucky he was.
“He was only about 30 metres from a horrible spot. It would have got ugly and, in terms of rescuing them, a lot more difficult. We could have found ourselves paddling him straight up the rocks.
“My gut feeling is he did not really have a solid appreciation for the position he was in. I have been doing this for 30 years and, for some people, it doesn’t sink in. In another two minutes, God knows where he would have been.
“If we had not been on the beach, the seas were so horrendous and there was so much water moving and rips running through there, that by the time somebody had called someone, I would not like to have seen the outcome.
“Afterwards, the gentlemen said thanks to Billy and I gave him a pep talk and explained some rules of the surf.
“I explained he was paddling against the current, wasting energy and in another 30 metres he was going to need all the energy that he had.”
The incident has left Mr Phillips scratching his head as to what more either Eurobodalla Shire Council or lifesavers can do to warn tourists.
“Andrew Edmunds and the council have done a great job and I think surf lifesaving in general is doing all we can do.
“There are new signs at north and south Broulee. What more can you do? They have things on planes now, signs that have just gone up around the Eurobodalla shire warning people.
“Sometimes people have to go through the grinder to appreciate how nasty the ocean can be. I hope they remember it.”
Training teens save two lives
Teenagers training at Broulee on Monday saved a tourist in his 50s and his 12-year-old son in horrendous surf.
Broulee lifesavers Billy Hughes-Tweedie and Ben McKay were training on racing boards just after 5pm when the boy on a bodyboard and his father became stuck in a permanent rip adjacent to the rocks.
Trainer Darren Phillips has commended the confident rescues in “perilous conditions”.
“Ben saw the incident unfold and immediately paddled to the boy and pulled him onto his board,” Mr Phillips said.
“Billy pulled his father onto the board and really handled himself well, taking on large waves to paddle to safety, with no thought for his own wellbeing.
“The father was over 100kg, which made for an extremely challenging rescue.
“There were huge rips running everywhere, and four-to-five metre waves,
“Given the age and fitness of the man, he was in a lot of difficulty, really struggling to keep his son afloat.”
Far South Coast Director of Lifesaving Andrew Edmunds reminded people to swim at patrolled locations, during patrol hours.
“It was very fortunate no lives were lost,” he said.
“Both Ben and Billy showed supreme skill and fitness in carrying out the rescue in those treacherous conditions and should be very proud of the result.”