Revealed: the lives saved by Aussie lifeguards
James and Kirsty McLennan were eating dinner when they spotted six swimmers caught in the infamous Bronte Beach rip.
It was 7:35pm on a stunning February night. The sun was setting fast.
"As I ran down, I could hear a lot of screaming and yelling coming from the beach. I could see at least six people in trouble," Mr McLennan said.
"I simply didn't have time to call triple zero, so as I was running to the beach I sent a message to our board and surf skills group on WhatsApp requesting assistance."
The Bronte Surf Club captain asked bystanders to call an Ambulance as he paddled out 250 metres to help struggling swimmers.
When he arrived, McLennan realised there were nine swimmers in need of urgent help.
"The conditions were pretty nasty, choppy and there was a lot of moving water around," McLennan said.
"One guy was in a particularly bad way. He had ingested a lot of water and was drifting in and out of consciousness,
"He was frothing at the mouth and I had to clear his airway several times while I was paddling him back to the beach on my board."
Minutes later, McLennan and his wife were joined by several off-duty surf lifesavers, the on-call duty officer and Waverly Council Lifeguards.
Miraculously, the team saved all nine swimmers before sunset.
Five days later, one of the survivors met with McLennan to thank him for saving his life.
"It was quite amazing meeting him because I said, last time I saw you, you were unconscious and you weren't breathing," McLennan said.
"It was good to see him smiling and he had a new haircut and looked quite cool. That's when everything really sunk in, and he gave me a big hug."
The McLennans were awarded NSW Rescue of the Year for their heroic actions, but the incident is just one of 10 000 rescues that surf lifesavers and guards perform every year.
A new report by Deloitte Access Economics has revealed that, without these services, an extra 1300 deaths and 800 critical injuries would have occurred on Australian beaches in 2019.
Last year, one in five surf lifesaving members trained in CPR encountered a non-patrolling medical emergency and administered CPR
The report, published today, also valued Surf Life Saving Australia services at an estimated $6.5 billion per year to the Australian economy - for every $1 invested into the organisation, the benefits are equal to approximately $20.20.
SLSA is Australia's largest volunteer organisation, with 176 000 volunteers across 314 clubs who spend 1.3 million hours patrolling every year.
NSW clubs will return on September 26 in a modified COVID-safe form.
"As our country navigates through COVID-19, our sense of community and connecting with our great coastal environment will become even more important," SLSA President Graham Ford AM said.
"Surf Life Saving Clubs are not only important for our 170,000 members, but they are at the centre of local communities and are a hub for all those enjoying our beaches."
Originally published as Revealed: the lives saved by Aussie lifeguards