American tourist swept out to sea
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
A 25-YEAR-OLD American tourist was rescued yesterday after a rip dragged him from Tallow Beach straight out to sea, east of the point of Cape Byron.
The rip pulled the man around the Cape to Little Wategos Beach, a distance of one nautical mile.
He was only saved through the quick-thinking action of tourists at Cape Byron Lighthouse watching the drama unfold below them.
The man had been surfing with friends about midday at Cosy Corner, Tallow Beach, when he attempted to cross a strong rip and became caught instead.
Tourists at Cape Byron Lighthouse watched in horror as the man struggled against the strong rip and treacherous waves at the point of Cape Byron then, exhausted, he floated out to sea.
German tourists, Sibylle and Riger Trutti, were the first to raise the alarm.
"We were looking through our binoculars and we saw him waving his arms, sending out an SOS," Mr Trutti said.
"He was trying to get on to the rocks, but he was being washed away. He was exhausted.
"We ran to the museum to tell the officers to get help."
Marty Zajanc, an American tourist and experienced surfer, was standing further down the cape escarpment and was able to guide the surfer with hand signals.
"I watched him paddle straight into the rip," Mr Zajanc said.
"And he was getting tired.
"I was directing him from the top, directing him to the rocks then, when the helicopter flew over, I directed him to float out where he could be picked up.
"I was worried about him when he was being pounded by the waves around the point.
"If his leg rope had snapped he would have been in trouble, he was exhausted.
"If you see someone paddle straight into a rip you know they're in trouble. If they're inexperienced, they fight the rip."
The man was eventually picked up by the Byron Bay Surf Rescue's IRB and delivered safely to a waiting ambulance at Wategos Beach.
Later in the day, another surfer was caught in the same strong rip at Cosy Corner, but managed to escape, Norm Standage, of Byron Coast Patrol, said.
"The sea's building up at the moment. It's a strong swell," Mr Standage said.
"I've have two yachts at the moment wanting to come in to shelter."