United for Safer Beaches: A Tale of Heroism and Community Empowerment

“It is important that we develop and grow our local clubs through education and upskilling our members to be able to respond and help when required. The support of local and broader donors is vital in providing much-needed resources for these endeavours.”- Patrol Captain Russell Jones.

Summer in Western Australia promises endless beach adventures, but it’s also a season when our serene shores can turn hazardous, endangering beachgoers.

This is a story of heroism and community dedication, highlighting the indispensable role of trained volunteer surf lifesavers who stand ready to answer distress calls.

On a fateful day, Sunday, August 13, three teenage girls ventured into the inviting shallows of Back Beach, unaware of the treacherous conditions. At that moment, Geraldton’s volunteer surf lifesavers were engaged in off-season jet ski training, unaware of the unfolding crisis. These girls found themselves caught in a relentless rip current, swept away from the safety of the shore, a situation that might have gone unnoticed if not for a vigilant member of the public.

Help us prepare the next generation of brave volunteers and continue our proud tradition of keeping people safe on West Aussie beaches.

Felicity Ietto, a former lifeguard, and swimming teacher was on the beach that afternoon. She immediately recognised the gravity of the situation and understood that without proper equipment and assistance, the girls faced little chance against the relentless ocean’s power. Without hesitation, Felicity sprinted towards the Geraldton Surf Life Saving club for help.

Russell Jones, a club Patrol Captain – with a decade of experience in Surf Life Saving led the response. Joining him were fellow volunteers Peter Saunders, a lifelong contributor to the club, Denver Rowcroft, a dedicated club member, and Judy Heylen, an enthusiastic administrative volunteer.

In those critical moments, these volunteers acted swiftly, instinctively relying on their training. They grabbed rescue boards, paddled into surging waves, and launched a jet ski, battling fierce winds and pounding swells. The girls were in grave danger.

Your contribution matters.

Did you know that each rescue board, an essential piece of lifesaving equipment, costs approximately $3,000? With 31 clubs and almost 24,000 volunteer members in Western Australia, the need for this equipment is vital to saving lives. Your gift, no matter the amount, contributes to a safer beach experience this summer.

“Our first sight of the scene was one girl lying face down on the water’s edge with Judy and Felicity assisting her, and two small heads in the break zone getting smashed,” Peter recalled.

Time was of the essence. Russell attempted to reach the struggling girls with his rescue board, but the conditions were unrelenting, and the waves were too powerful. Denver and Peter raced to grab the necessary equipment. They recommissioned the jet ski, collected the oxygen unit, defibrillator, and first aid kit, and drove down to the beach.

Russell courageously paddled back towards the shore, while the jet ski, now operational, became their best hope. With determination and unwavering courage, Russell mounted the jet ski and plunged back into the raging ocean.

The importance of training and equipment

Training in all conditions ensures our volunteers are well-prepared to face any challenge. These volunteers put their own lives on the line each time they assist a distressed swimmer. Your support is crucial for maintaining rescue gear, and equipment, and providing essential training for our dedicated surf lifesavers.

Help us prepare the next generation of brave volunteers and continue our proud tradition of keeping people safe on West Aussie beaches.

Despite the challenging conditions and with the support of his fellow lifesavers on the shore guiding him when he momentarily lost sight of the second girl, Russell successfully rescued her from the ocean’s clutches.

The girls’ lives were forever changed by the presence of these everyday heroes, who acted when it mattered most. They faced daunting waves, relentless rip currents, and very real danger, yet their dedication and training prevailed.

Even on the beach, teamwork and camaraderie were evident, with Judy taking notes and collecting the girls’ belongings. Denver retrieved the oxygen unit, while Peter administered oxygen to one of the girls. Former lifeguard Felicity stayed on to offer her assistance.

All three girls were in shock, but the volunteer surf lifesavers took their time to explain the effects of secondary drowning. They advised the girls to go to the hospital for a thorough check-up.

A collective effort led to a happy ending on this occasion. However, they couldn’t do it alone.

Your donation makes a difference.

“Without the provision of up-to-date equipment such as rescue boards, jet-skis, and IRB’s as well as uniforms, first-aid and safety equipment, it would be impossible for me to help in the way that I have been able to,” Russell discloses.

Training each volunteer surf lifesaver to Bronze Medallion standard costs at least $850. Additionally, there are ongoing expenses for purchasing and maintaining rescue gear and equipment throughout the year.

Your donation can empower beach safety. Be part of the lifesaving community by supporting our dedicated surf lifesavers.

Dedicated volunteers like Russell, Peter, Denver, and Judy act selflessly to contribute to their community and offer help when it’s needed the most. While the dedication of our surf lifesavers is unmatched, their work wouldn’t be possible without community support.

Surf Life Saving Western Australia is committed to saving lives and giving back to the community. Your generous contributions help us fulfill our mission by maintaining rescue equipment, purchasing safety gear, and funding training programs.

Your support also allows us to expand our educational programs, spreading vital water safety information. Even strong swimmers and regular beachgoers need education about the dangers.

Together, we can ensure safer beaches and empower our community.

Your gift matters and your support is invaluable. Thank you for joining us in this vital mission to save lives and keep our beaches safe.