Torquay Boardriders Club member Heidi Abetz recognised for rescue

Published on 20/04/2022

Photo and article via Geelong Advertiser

A 13-YEAR-OLD sacrificed her place in a surfing competition to save a young boy caught in a rip.

Heidi Abetz on Thursday received an Everyday Lifesaver award for the bravery and selflessness she showed when rescuing the boy.

Heidi was competing in the under-14 girl’s Torquay Boardriders Club final at Jan Juc beach on February 13 when she saw the boy struggling against a rip on his board and not making any headway to the shore.

Leaving her competition, Heidi paddled over to the boy, instructing him to hold on to her leg while she paddled him across the rip and into the shore break. The young boy was unharmed and made it back to land.

Heidi said after seeing the boy in trouble she didn’t think twice about the competition.

“I was about 100m out (and) halfway through my heat when I saw a young boy in a panic, he was crying so I swam straight over,” Heidi said.

A keen surfer since the age of four, Heidi said her father, Tim, had taught her about the dangers of rips.

“If you are caught in a rip, stay calm and float,” Heidi said. “If you are a strong swimmer, swim sideways to the shore and let the waves take you in.”

Torquay Boardriders Club vice-president Cahill Bell- Warren said the rescue was a great reminder that staying calm and knowing what to do in challenging situations could be the difference between a happy ending and tragedy.

“As surfers, we play an important role in water safety across the state. Even though she was competing, Heidi was the first responder to this incident,”Mr Bell-Warren said.

Surfing Victoria chief executive Adam Robertson said surfers were adept at making interventions and offering assistance to other beach users.

“I’m really proud of Heidi’s efforts. For Heidi to put aside her safety and competitive aspirations to assist a member of the public in need is inspirational,” he said.

The Play It Safe By The Water Committee, which issued the award, commended Heidi’s selfless actions. According to Life Saving Victoria, rips are the number one hazard at Australian beaches and lead to an average of 26 drownings each year.

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