REUNITED: Rick Potts (right) recently caught up with Frank Vanz Junior.
REUNITED: Rick Potts (right) recently caught up with Frank Vanz Junior. Contributed

'Special moment' for beach hero and the man he saved

TWO Ballina men ended a recent meeting with a solid man hug, which was much better than the tug of the hair when they first met.

But that tug of the hair is something that Frank Vanz Junior certainly appreciates as it gave him a second chance at life.

Rick Potts grabbed Frank's hair while he was pulling him on to his surfboard while rescuing the then 15-year-old nine years ago at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach.

They were reunited for the first time since that event a fortnight ago.

Rick said he wanted to give Frank a hug when they first got back together at The Point restaurant and bar in Ballina, but Frank, now aged 24, wasn't too keen.

But after "having a yarn” about what happened, the youth was more than happy to give former lifeguard Rick a man hug.

Rick said it was a great experience.

"It's amazing when you catch up just to say g'day,” he said.

"It was nice just to sit down and explain what happened and how lucky it all was for him.

"It was a special moment.”

Nine years ago, Rick had finished some landscaping work in late summer and decided to take his longboard out for a surf.

When he came back to shore, he said there were people on the headland at the northern end of the beach "waving and screaming”, but Rick wasn't sure what the commotion was about.

A woman ran up to him on the beach to tell him there was someone struggling in the water.

This was before the new surf club was built at the beach.

Rick went straight back into the water in the direction the people were pointing a few hundred metres off the shoreline.

"I went over wave after wave and couldn't see anyone,” he said.

"Then I heard a cry for help and saw fingertips coming out of the water.

"I pulled him (Frank) up by his hair onto my board.”

Rick did visit Frank in hospital then next day, but he said Frank couldn't remember much about the incident.

At their recent get-together, Rick told Frank what he had said to him after he pulled him out of the water.

Rick had said: "If you've been a bad boy, then be a good boy as you've got a second chance.”

Frank said he didn't remember that.

But he did tell Rick he has been somewhat of a good Samaritan and, as one example, recently stopped and helped a motorist change a tyre on the side of the road.

However, Frank told Rick he isn't too keen on the water these days.

The meeting took place as Rick had travelled to Lismore and decided to stop in at Frank's father's business just to check if young Frank wanted to catch up.

Frank returned the call, and the meeting was organised.

And, not surprisingly, Frank shouted Rick the first round.

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