Surf Life Saving nippers honoured for mass rescue at Redhead Beach in November 2019

HEROES: The efforts of Redhead nippers Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Nicholas White saved the lives of three people caught in a rip in November. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW
HEROES: The efforts of Redhead nippers Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Nicholas White saved the lives of three people caught in a rip in November. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW

They were expecting a training session like every other but on November 28, quick thinking from three young surf lifesavers turned a potentially dangerous afternoon around.

Redhead Surf Life Saving Club members Nicholas White, Lily Kennedy-Myers and Jet Hoffman were participating in a board training session when they became aware of an emergency on Redhead Beach.

Their efforts saved the lives of three people caught in a rip and earned them the Surf Life Saving NSW Rescue of the Month Award.

Around 5.30pm that Thursday, surf conditions were big, with five-foot swell and big rips along the beach.

Redhead resident Neil Dalby was walking his dog on the bluff high above the beach.

He had been watching the board training session when something caught his eye.

"I saw four, young, 16-year-old boys run down the beach and jump into the water where there's a strong current - and they got into trouble straight away," Mr Dalby said. "I was waving and shouting but nobody could hear me down on the beach."

Nicholas White, Neil Dalby, Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Ray Terrill. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW

Nicholas White, Neil Dalby, Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Ray Terrill. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW

He wasn't the only one to notice the commotion.

Nicholas saw the boys struggling in the rip and responded immediately.

"We were finishing a race and coming in when we noticed someone in trouble," he said. "I went out on my board as quick as I could. The rip they were going out in was a severe rip, probably 30 metres wide, being fed by the large north-east swell coming across the beach. It was a big rip."

Lily quickly followed Nick out to assist with the rescue.

"This was my first rescue and I was really scared when I first saw them out there," she said. "But then my confidence kicked in knowing I had done so much training for it. Once I had him on my board, I was relieved because he was safe and with me. But then I had to get him in to shore and that was another challenge in itself."

While the duo took two of the boys to shore, Jet paddled his nipper board over to assist the third boy, who was treading water.

"I paddled one of the guys out of the rip and away from the rocks but he was a big guy and too big for my board - he would have sunk it," he said. "So, I just let him hang onto it and have a rest."

The lifesavers' board coach Ray Terrill arrived to assist Jet and help the third swimmer back to the beach.

He said the squad responded very quickly to the situation.

HEROES: The efforts of Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Nicholas White saved the lives of three people caught in a rip in November. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW

HEROES: The efforts of Lily Kennedy-Myers, Jet Hoffman and Nicholas White saved the lives of three people caught in a rip in November. Picture: Surf Life Saving NSW

"It was a situation where our kids could spot the danger early and we're extremely proud that they could see the danger developing," Mr Terrill said.

"They could see the danger the boys were getting themselves into. We're proud our kids could assist these young men who were in trouble. Sadly to say, if it wasn't for our club members going to their aid, there would have been at least one fatality that day, if not more."

Jet, Lily and Nick said they had received a terrific response to their rescue.

"My parents were very excited and happy that I'd done the rescue," Jet said. "They are still talking about it to other people. That's why I do Nippers and I've always had a great feeling about saving someone's life. Winning Rescue of the Month has propelled me to go further into surf life saving."

Mr Dalby said he was still in awe of the mass rescue he witnessed that day.

"I thought these guys, who'd gotten into trouble, were very lucky that the guys were out there doing squad work," he said.

"What got me was that after the rescue the coach got the squad together to debrief on what had just happened and then ... off they were, back down the beach doing their training again.

"You can measure the value of surf clubs to the community in lives saved. What cost is a life? That's the importance of it. Nobody on the beach could have done a darn thing so the guys were very lucky the group was board training that day."

Surf Life Saving NSW president George Shales said the young lifesavers' timely and efficient response to the critical incident was a credit to themselves and to their training from the club.

"Thanks to their training, teamwork and skill, they saved the lives of three people," Mr Shales said. "They have every right to feel enormously proud of their achievements and the Rescue of the Month Award is due recognition."