Engineer rescues tourists from Broken Head surf

LUCKY: Chris Appelkamp (right) rescued this unnamed English tourist (centre) and a friend from a rip at Broken Head on Saturday. Another tourist (left) struggled, but made it to shore.
LUCKY: Chris Appelkamp (right) rescued this unnamed English tourist (centre) and a friend from a rip at Broken Head on Saturday. Another tourist (left) struggled, but made it to shore.

TWO English tourists may have drowned if it wasn't for holidaying geotechnical engineer Chris Appelkamp.

Mr Appelkamp, of Wollongong, rescued the two swimmers at Broken Head on Saturday about 4pm after they were caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach.

He was attending a family baby shower when the tourists ran into trouble.

"All of the guys went for a swim, everyone got out, but I stayed in to catch a few waves and body surf," the 31-year-old said.

"Three English guys were out there, one with a bodyboard, and they didn't look very confident."

About 50m offshore, the sand dropped off suddenly, leaving the surprised tourists trapped in a powerful rip and unable to stand.

"They were just bobbing around one minute, then one of the guys without a board screamed for help," Mr Appelkamp said.

"I thought they were taking the piss, so I yelled 'are you serious?' and they kept going."

Realising the severity of the situation, Mr Appelkamp, a strong swimmer and surfer, made his way to the men.

"One guy was going under water and he was definitely fading," he said.

"He couldn't touch the bottom so just kept getting swept along with the rip.

"I used the board and started pushing him in and his shorts came down.

"I didn't want to body surf in his cheeks, so I changed position and got him in.

"Then his mate started screaming too, so I went and got the other guy and got him in, with the third guy coming along trying to help."

Despite swallowing some water and suffering exhaustion, both tourists were uninjured.

"The whole time I was calm," Mr Appelkamp said.

"I didn't think it was a big deal, but everyone else on the beach seemed to.

"Now I think about it, these guys would've been gone without someone there."

Topics:  broken head, drowning, outdoor-living, surf safety

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