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Surfers first on the scene during dramatic Cape Woolamai rescue



Water Safety

Surfers play an essential role in the chain of water safety

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 8 March, 2016 - Surfers have been labeled as heroes today, rescuing two swimmers in a dramatic incident today at Cape Woolamai Ocean Beach.

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, just weeks after a mass rescue lead by surfers saw seven people dragged to shore at the same location. In the previous incident, two swimmers passed away in hospital days later.

Within moments the pair were beyond their depth and panicking, when nearby surfer Ken Rudan came to their aid.

Rudan, a 41 year old male from Lillydale, had only been in the water a short amount of time before spotting the two swimmers in trouble. “I was down at Woolamai trying to catch a couple of quiet waves after work. I hadn’t been in the water for long before I heard screaming and went to help” said Rudan.

“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”.

“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 from life saving services at the time. When his actions were labeled heroic, Rudan denied the claim, insisting that any other surfer or bystander would have performed the same actions.

As Rudan was maneuvering the pair towards safety, he was joined by Tristan Forras (Jan Juc, VIC) and some young local surfers.

Forras and the local surfers were at the beach for the #isurfwith Victorian Tour, a high performance surf coaching program supported by the Victorian Government’s Play It Safe By The Water water safety campaign, that focuses on equipping young male surfers in coastal areas of Victoria to act as ‘every day lifesavers’.

Forras, one of the lead role models of the program, wasn’t surprised to be involved in such an incident at 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” said Forras.

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 an in water rescue” said Bell-Warren.

“Surfers play an essential role in the chain of water safety, this is another great example of this”.

Paul Shannon, chairperson of Victorian State Government’s Play It Safe By The Water campaign 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. 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.”

The aim of the #isurfwith Victorian Tour presented by Play It Safe By The Water is to use positive male role models and professional surf coaches from Surfing Victoria to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation of male surfers.

The tour moves to Lakes Entrance on Wednesday, before reaching its eastern most point Mallacoota on Thrusday. The 2016 #isurfwith Victorian Tour is conducted by Surfing Victoria and funded by the Play It Safe by The Water campaign.

Full tour dates:

Wonthaggi Secondary College – March 8th

Phillip Island – March 8th.

Lakes Entrance – March 9th.

Mallacoota P-12 College – March 10th.

Mallacoota – March 10th.

Mornington Peninsula – March 11th.

Portland – March 14th.

Warrnambool – March 15th.

Torquay – March 16th.

Torquay Secondary College – March 17th.

13th Beach – March 17th. 

Liam Robertson

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