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Thirroul surf life saver, hailed hero after Coledale rescue, honoured with award

Kyle Mathiesen 2

AN off-duty surf lifesaver, who was hailed as a hero after saving the life of a 16-year-old boy at Coledale Beach in May has won the SLSNSW Rescue of the Month Award.

The 16-year-old boy had jumped into the surf off the rocks at North Coledale beach at 4.45pm on Tuesday May 26 to go surfing with a friend. However, he forgot to attach his body-board leash and quickly got into trouble in the large swell and strong current and was separated from his board.

Fortuitously, off-duty surf lifesaver Kyle Mathiesen, from Thirroul Surf Life Saving Club, was alerted to the situation when he heard members of the public screaming for help to rescue the boy and was first to respond. A local resident who had been walking near the beach phoned Triple-Zero after noticing the boy in trouble in the large swell, being dragged by the current close to the rock platform.

Mr Mathiesen quickly assessed the surf conditions before stripping down to board shorts, grabbing a board and swim fins and running down to the beach. He paddled out to the boy who had been thrown his board for buoyancy by an onlooker. He was just metres from the rock platform, struggling to swim against the strong current and nearing exhaustion. He had been in the water for 25 minutes.

Mr Mathiesen reached the boy and provided reassurance while he paddled him away from the rocks. He waited until there was a break in the waves to paddle the boy back through the break to the safety of the shore. The rescue took more than 10 minutes due to the size of the swell and rough conditions.

“I had a quick look at the conditions and paddled out. I reached the guy and said to him ‘are you tired’ and he said ‘yes’. So, I said to him ‘come on mate, let’s do this together’ and I swam him back to the beach,” Mr Mathiesen said.

“Thankfully, the woman who spotted the kid in trouble raised the alarm and called Triple-Zero and then was able to throw him his board. She really set it up as a successful rescue,” he said.

The boy’s father, Phil Campbell, who watched the rescue unfold from the beach, was very relieved when his son was returned safely. He thanked Mr Mathiesen for saving his son’s life in such treacherous conditions. He also thanked Surf Life Saving NSW Duty Officer Anthony Turner, the Coledale SLSC callout team and the other emergency service teams, including police and ambulance paramedics, who responded to the call to Triple-Zero. The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was also tasked to the incident.

The boy’s aunt, Michelle Burt, said that the response of emergency service personnel was incredible.

“The police, ambulance and rescue teams were there in five minutes. How quick was that! They had jetskis ready and a helicopter on the way. I can’t even get a hamburger that quickly. These guys are mega-men,” she said.

“I want to nominate Kyle for a bravery award for what he did. This bloke is a legend! It would have been a recovery situation if he didn’t get him out of the surf when he did. He was exhausted and there was only ten minutes before it got dark.

“Nobody should have been out in the surf that day – not even good surfers. It was like a washing machine out there.”

A Hazardous Surf Warning had been issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for the Illawarra region at the time of the incident.

Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales commended Mr Mathiesen on his award-winning rescue.

“We’re tremendously impressed with Kyle Mathiesen’s fast assessment of the situation and his response. Had it not been for Kyle’s quick thinking, after seeing the boy in trouble in the surf, there may have been a very different outcome,” Mr Shales said.

“It’s testament to Kyle’s surf lifesaving training and his commitment to keeping his skills up-to-date that he was able to respond in such a measured way and execute the rescue he did. He is a very deserving recipient of the Rescue of the Month Award.”

The SLSNSW Rescue of the Month aims to recognise excellence in lifesaving.

Each month a ‘Rescue of the Month’ is awarded at state level for the most outstanding rescue performance for that period. Monthly winners have the chance to win the National Rescue of the Month and become finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence.

About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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