Saskia Rundle-Trowbridge knows Warriewood Beach like the back of her hand.
She’s been watching the shores for 13 years, which came in handy for a dramatic cave rescue on Sunday at Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
It was just after 2pm and she was five minutes into her patrol shift when she was sent out to help three teenagers trapped in a cave at the Warriewood Blowhole.
One had sustained head injuries.
“I jumped in … with a rescue tube,” she said.
“We had to climb up the rocks to the boys to get them out. I just talked them through what was going to happen.”
The waters were rough against the cliff face, and her plan was to wait for a lull to jump back in with the group.
“I had to say ‘I’m a surf lifesaver. It’s going to be all right.’
“The whole time we were climbing back down to the rocks and swimming out to the boat, I just kept repeating ‘We’re going to be okay.'”
The injured teen was taken to Northern Beaches Hospital.
The three-person rescue was Saskia’s first from the boat, but the experienced swimmer said it wouldn’t be her last.
“My one mission was to get these boys to safety, make sure they were okay,” she said.
“My whole team, my driver, and the rest of the team on the beach with the radios, they were amazing.
“We go into this volunteer service just to do that sort of thing, keep the beach safe and keep the people safe. That’s the goal, just to keep everyone safe.”
Patrol captain Martin Carlisle said the rescue would have been difficult for even the most experienced swimmer.
“Without a blink, she was in to take part in the rescue, which is way beyond what people with that level of experience would have done,” he said.
Starting as a Nipper, moving to a cadet, and now a Surf Life Saving New South Wales junior member, Saskia said teens often jump the 11 metres from the top of the cliff to the Warriewood Blowhole below.
And it was not long after the first rescue that she was back in the boat, as reports came through that more teens had taken the plunge.
“We get a lot of people jumping from the top of the cliff into the water right next to the blowhole. Even though it’s it’s something we definitely don’t encourage, because it’s dangerous in almost any condition,” she said.
Swimmers urged to stay safe
The rescue came during a particularly deadly summer on the state’s beaches, with 11 coastal drownings so far.
Chris Jacobson, chair of lifesaving at Surf Life Saving Australia, said he expected it to be a risky end to the season.
“We’re expecting a big finish to the end of the season and what we’re doing is putting the message out there and urging people to stay safe,” Mr Jacobson said.
Surf Life Saving released new research on Sunday revealing drownings at unpatrolled locations were on the rise.
“The research is showing us that all the drownings are occurring outside of the patrolled, flagged areas,” Mr Jacobson said.
“What we’re really urging people to do is that if you’re choosing to go swim at an unpatrolled location or a waterway … have a plan in place.”
He said one of the most common ways to drown was while attempting to rescue someone else, and that could be avoided by using flotation devices, which could include boogie boards, beach balls, or even eskies.