A Group of surfers were labelled heroes last Tuesday, after rescuing two swimmers in a dramatic incident at Cape Woolamai.
The swimmers were a part of a large tour group visiting the notorious open ocean beach, when they were dragged from the sand bar by a powerful rip.
It occurred just weeks after a mass rescue led by surfers saw seven people dragged to shore at the same location. Two of them could not be revived.
On Tuesday, within seconds the pair was beyond their depth and panicking, when nearby surfer Ken Rudan came to their aid.
Ken, a 41-year-old from Lilydale, had only been in the water a short amount of time before spotting the two swimmers in trouble, scrwaming for help.
“The people in trouble were a couple, the girl was screaming ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die’, even when I had them afloat on my board,” he said.
“I was trying to keep them both calm. I let the rip take us back towards the breaking waves. We got a couple of big waves on the head and I focused on holding the wrists of the girl. She was the most at risk.
“Only three weeks ago I rescued another swimmer at this same location.”
The beach was not under patrol by lifesaving services at the time.
While his actions were labelled heroic, Ken denied the claim, insisting that any other surfer or bystander would have performed the same actions.
As Ken was manoeuvring the pair towards safety, he was joined by Jan Juc’s Tristan Forras and some young local surfers.
Tristan and the local surfers were coincidentally at the beach for the #isurfwith Victorian Tour, a high performance surf coaching program supported by the State Government’s Play It Safe By The Water safety campaign, that focuses on equipping young male surfers in coastal areas of Victoria to act as ‘every day lifesavers’.
As one of the lead role models of the program, Tristan wasn’t surprised to be involved in such an incident at Cape Woolamai.
“This beach is incredibly dangerous. Just because the sun was out and the surf wasn’t huge doesn’t make it safe for swimming,” he said.
Surfing Victoria’s Cahill Bell-Warren was preparing the #isurfwith program participants to head into the water when the situation unfolded.
“Ironically, these are the very incidents we are working with Play It Safe By The Water to empower these young kids to help avert, either through early intervention and preventing people from swimming in dangerous areas, or giving them the skills and confidence to physically perform in a water rescue,” Cahill said.
“Surfers play an essential role in the chain of water safety, and this is another great example of this.”
Chairperson of the Play It Safe By The Water campaign, Paul Shannon, said it was a timely reminder that the ocean deserves respect.
“If these young surfers were not present today then we could be reliving the tragedy that unfolded with two drowning deaths in this exact location back in February,” he said.
“The more Victorians we have who can execute a rescue and deliver lifesaving CPR, the stronger our community becomes.
“The Play it Safe By The Water group recommend learning how to spot and avoid rip currents, read safety signs to understand the dangers and be aware of your own ability.
“Preventing the public getting into trouble by empowering our surfing youth has once again saved lives. Congratulations to Surfing Victoria on this drowning prevention outcome.”