Lifeguards from the Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) have rescued a kayaker clinging to his semi-submerged vessel after his mate swam to shore and raised the alarm in a dramatic rescue near Byron Bay on the state’s Far North Coast.
The two men aged in their fifties, who were visiting the area, departed from The Pass for a journey to Julian’s Island, a popular route for kayakers, when they got into difficulty on Thursday.
Conditions were relatively benign when they departed at around 8.00 AEDT, with the men expected to return from their trip by 11am. When they hadn’t arrived back, a concerned relative, believed to be a partner of one of the kayakers, alerted police.
It is understood that only one of the men was wearing a life jacket. A search was launched involving lifeguards, police, and the volunteer callout team. The Queensland Police helicopter was placed on standby, but was ultimately not required.
At approximately 2.45 reports surfaced that one of the missing men had been located on Suffolk Park Beach. He told rescuers that he had swum to shore, and had last seen his mate about an hour before, clinging to their kayak, which had taken on water, about a kilometre out to sea.
As a result of this information, the search area was moved south, with the kayak being located shortly before 3pm The lone kayaker was brought to Suffolk Park Beach on the back of a Byron Bay Jet Ski.
Both men were assessed by paramedics and given a clean bill of health.
ALS Northern Coordinator Scott McCartney said that the incident was a timely reminder of the importance of being prepared when heading out on the water.
“This rescue highlights how quickly conditions can change while out on the ocean. Although conditions were pretty calm this morning the wind and choppy swell has obviously caused difficulty for these two kayakers,” McCartney said.
“It was fortunate that the men told their relatives when they expected to be back as it helped escalate the search.”
Mr McCartney praised lifeguards, lifesavers, and the police for their team effort which resulted in the successful outcome, but did have a word of warning for those heading out to enjoy the coast.
“When out on open water we strongly encourage the wearing of a lifejacket, and please always keep an eye on the conditions. The ocean is a dynamic environment, and it needs to be respected,” he said.