Life saving teens

13-year-old rescuers Darcy Lewis and Joe Tolano.

By Margaret Maccoll

Surf lifesavers Darcy Lewis and Joe Tolano, both 13 years of age, were in the first hour of their first surf patrol, on an all terrain vehicle (ATV) 400m north of Sunshine Beach Surf Club on Sunday 3 October when a boogie boarder alerted them to a woman in trouble in big surf.

The woman, aged in her 40s, had been caught in a rip and sucked out to the back of the breakers, half way to the shark nets, in rough conditions.

Darcy radioed for backup while Joe grabbed the paddle board and headed out to the woman, who was barely visible.

“I just had a glimpse of her,“ Joe said.

When he reached the woman she was in a panicked condition and unable to climb onto the board, but with Joe’s help managed to hold on.

“I just calmed her down,“ Joe said.

Help soon arrived thanks to Darcy’s efficient radio work, with lifeguard Jeremy quickly on the scene. Jeremy and Joe helped the woman on to the board and paddled her back in. Joe said when they made it to shore she was embarrassed at having to be rescued.

“It was big surf. She was upset. I don’t blame her,“ he said.

Having been surf lifesaving members for the past eight years it was “normal Sunshine surf“ for the young lifesavers, but the Sunshine Beach State High School and St Andrew’s College students were both pleased they had just graduated from a four-day Surf Lifesaving Rescue Certificate Award, providing intensive training in surf rescue and lifesaving techniques.

Joe said the rescue had been “pretty exciting“.

“It’s really nice knowing we saved someone’s life,“ Darcy said.

Sunshine Beach Surf Lifesaving Club director of lifesaving John Reeves praised the boys, saying they displayed remarkable bravery, confidence and lifesaving skills.

He said the rescue demonstrated the crucial need for the public’s ongoing financial support, with the rescue occurring just prior to the Queensland Lifesavers annual appeal.

“The Queensland Lifesavers Appeal from October 9-17 supports the incredible work our lifesavers do keeping our loved ones safe,” Mr Reeves said.

“The impressive part is these young recruits are often better paddlers and swimmers than adults – but what’s challenging is dealing with a panicked adult in the surf who is much bigger than them.

“To deal with an adult who is in a state of panic and could be three times their body weight is a huge feat – and while youngsters are incredibly capable it is essential we have the support to nurture and develop their skills so they continue to develop confidence and don’t end up in a situation that is beyond their capability.

“During the weekend rescue there were numerous adult surf lifesaving volunteers on the scene, and the recruits were under constant guidance from trained members.“

Mr Reeves urged locals to get behind the annual Queensland Lifesavers Appeal to ensure the continuation of this vital service.

The cost of setting up a single beach patrol can add up to more than $80,000 worth of crucial life saving equipment, he said.

Community support also helps train young volunteers, provides ongoing development programs and expands community safety initiatives.

To make a donation or for further information visit