'Nippers' Is a 'Cracker'
It was a beautiful summer weekend down under. But by all accounts, the waters off Northcliffe beach on Australia's east coast were exceedingly treacherous.
The second weekend of January, 2010, at least 42 people reportedly had to be rescued while swimming in the Pacific Ocean along the coast of southeast Queensland.
And one of them was rescued by a couple of kids.
Jake Satherley and Spencer Jeans braved dangerous conditions when they came to the rescue of a middle-aged man who got caught in a rip at Surfers Paradise. It was just one of more than 30 rescues during what was a busy weekend for surf lifesavers, which included warning swimmers about a hammerhead shark that was spotted about 100m off Narrow Neck.
(Queensland is the Australian province where Northcliffe beach is located.)
Jake and Spencer, who are from Southport and Isle of Capri, respectively, were paddling out to sea when they saw the man was in trouble, south of the flags, struggling in dangerous currents. "We saw the man with his hand up, signaling that he needed some help," said Spencer.
"I went over and he jumped on my board, then Jake caught up and waited in case the man fell off and needed his board. A member from the club, Adam Jones, saw us and came out, jumped on my board and we drifted in with the waves."
Spencer said he was proud of their efforts yesterday. "The man was pretty grateful -- we got into shore and he said thank you," grinned Spencer.
The pint-sized pair are in a lifeguard-training program in Northcliffe: www.northcliffesurfclub.com.au/history.shtml
But they had never had to rescue anyone from the ocean. Jake's mom, Aleena Satherley, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that even though her son is in "Nippers," he has not been taught how to save people yet. "It's not like they go out and rescue. They're too young," she said. "It's another couple of years of training before that's supposed to happen."
Lifeguards said the rescue was the most remarkable they have ever seen. David Shields, president of the local Northcliffe Life Saving Club, witnessed the rescue. "I've been involved in surf lifesaving for 30 years and I've never seen anyone so young come to the aid of someone so old," he told Australia's ABC News.
"They really did perform well above their years. We're just so proud of them and the way they acted instinctively." He said their act of bravery merited a medal. "We've got our annual dinner coming up and we'll go further with medals and appropriate recognition. For boys so young to act the way they did, we're just so proud of them and they will be rewarded."
Jake, who turns nine next week, says he did not feel scared despite the dangerous surf conditions which saw seven people taken to hospital and 42 rescued in south-east Queensland alone. "It took a couple of minutes," he said.
Jake's mother was sitting on the beach at the time, unaware of the drama unfolding in the water. But after being told her son had saved a man's life, Ms Satherley says she "got instant goose bumps over my whole body" and gave Jake a "big high five and hug". "I keep getting tears in my eyes ... I was just so proud," she said.
But despite his lack of rescue training, Ms Satherley says she is not surprised Jake helped the man. "He's always been the type of child to pick up a sick lizard or sick bird off the road," she said. "It's human nature to try and help people and when someone's got their hand up yelling help, the boys just went into action."
And the ordeal has not left Jake scarred at all; today he plans to go to the beach and he says he will be "back into the water" straight away
UPDATE: Two Gold Coast boys who saved a man's life gain international recognition for bravery.
Two eight-year-old Australian boys have been hailed as heroes after rescuing a drowning man from wild seas off Queensland's Gold Coast.
Media outlets from as far afield as the UK and India have picked up the story about Jake Satherley and Spencer Jeans, who risked their lives to rescue a middle-aged man from a rip at Surfers Paradise on Sunday.
Under the headline 'Australian Boys in Remarkable Surf Rescue', the BBC labeled the boys 'heroes' Well-wishers have also commented on goldcoast.com.au, congratulating the boys for their efforts.
Jake's mother Alena could barely believe the publicity the story received. "They were on the Today Show this morning and every radio station in the country keeps calling," she said. "The boys are taking it in their stride but I think now they are really realizing what they did -- that they saved someone's life.
"They didn't do it because they wanted recognition, they did it because they saw someone in trouble, and it didn't matter that it was a man four times their weight," added Jake's proud grandmother Sue Smith.
Ms Satherley said the fact that the story had travelled so far was indicative of the public's craving for good news. "It's nice to see kids doing the right thing and being recognized," she said.
"I couldn't even read those comments on The Bulletin website because I kept getting tears in my eyes."
Jake and Spencer were paddling out to sea when they saw the man in the water off Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club. The boys are both Nippers with the club and knew exactly what to do.
Club president David Shields said the boys would be recognized at the club's annual dinner in May. He said he had never heard of such young children rescuing an adult. "We are proud that our junior Nippers program is turning them into lifesavers," he said.