Robe surfers avert potential drowning tragedy

A young boy’s life has been saved from drowning by his quick thinking mother and the heroic efforts of two Robe surfers.

On Wednesday morning 12-year-old George found himself being carried out to sea by a strong rip off Stony Rise, a beach he goes “body bashing” at regularly.

Upon noticing her youngest son struggling against quickly worsening conditions, regular Robe visitor Katie made an emergency call but couldn’t get onto police quickly enough.

While she took some comfort in George being accompanied by his older brother Fred, 15, and friend Gus, 16 – both surfers who stuck with George until help arrived – she knew minutes could be the difference between life and death.

All I was thinking was, ‘Just get to him as fast as we can’

Sam Woolston

Remaining calm but thinking the worst, Katie had the idea to phone experienced local surfer and Steve’s Place owner Sam Woolston, thinking he might know someone with a boat who could come to the rescue.

When he took the call, Mr Woolston said: “All I was thinking was, ‘Just get to him as fast as we can’.”

Mr Woolston and his mate Tom Allen jumped straight in a car with their boards and headed to the scene, paddling out in Stonys’ big and messy conditions to rescue the young swimmer who had been desperately – and bravely – treading water for 40 minutes.

“They got here and were out the back within seconds,” Katie said of her son’s rescuers.

“Those could have been the few minutes that saved him.”

Local police and an off-duty surf lifesaver arrived at the scene once Mr Woolston and Mr Allen had entered the water, putting a nearby crayfish boat and local jetskier on standby should they be needed.

They watched the rescue scene unfold from the cliff top, nervous but confident in the surfers’ abilities.

“It felt bloody good when we got him onto the reef and he was huffing and puffing and okay,” Mr Allen said.

“I’ve been in the position where I thought the ocean was going to eat me and I felt for him,” he said.

Extremely thankful to the two men, Katie said reflecting on the incident was surreal.

“I knew panicking wouldn’t help but internally, your mind does go to the worst,” Katie said.

“It was so hard because I couldn’t communicate but I could see what was going on with the ocean chopping sideways and getting bigger,” she said.

“It’s quite a weird feeling being helpless.”

The near tragic event serves as a reminder that ocean conditions can change quickly.

“I’m glad my boys take time to watch the ocean before heading in,” Katie said. “The more we can do that the better.”