Close call sparks lifeguard's message to beachgoers

A LIFEGUARD who rescued one of two men after their kayak overturned has reminded beachgoers to always check conditions before entering the water.

At 1.30pm on Thursday, Lorne Greenlaw from the Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) took a jet ski from Byron Bay's Main Beach to search for the men, aged 50 and 51, around Julian Rocks.

"It sounds like it was unable to be paddled; they got drifted down in the current, down past Cape Byron, past the lighthouse and down to Suffolk," he said.

"It sounds like it was a fairly long time they were stuck for."

About 2.45pm there were reports that one of the missing men had been located on Suffolk Park Beach.

The man told rescuers that he had swum to shore, and had last seen his mate about an hour before, clinging to their kayak a kilometre out to sea.

"When we got that information I went around the cape to Suffolk, where I found him clinging to the kayak about 600m off the beach at Suffolk Park," Mr Greenlaw said.

"He was lucky to be found. Their kayak was sinking and he was very hard to spot.

"He was tired but his abilities in the ocean seemed quite confident ... he managed to stay calm."

Mr Greenlaw said it was a reminder of how rapidly conditions could change.

"The noted time they left the beach was 7.30am and at that time the wind was quite low and it did look quite calm," he said.

"When we got called out it was very choppy, especially out at Julian Rocks.

"This was a perfect example of what can happen when people who don't know the area well can mis- interpret the conditions."

ALS Northern co- ordinator Scott McCartney said rough conditions were set to continue over the weekend.

"At the moment it's extremely windy and it's important for people to understand what the winds are doing and when they're changing," he said.

"The swirl is meant to pick up over the next couple of days so we're encouraging everyone to be aware and go to the more protected beaches.

"The main beaches are usually the best beaches to go to in tricky conditions.

"We encourage everyone to go and talk to the lifeguard before they enter the water."

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