Stroke of luck pushes Sydney artist to shore in near-drowning

CELEBRATED Sydney artist siblings Fairlie and Peter Kingston came to Evans Head for inspiration, but ended up leaving distressed after Ms Kingston almost drowned on her first visit to the beach.

The internationally recognised artist's work celebrates the remnants of the "golden age" of seaside holidays, with nostalgic subjects such as old caravans, beach shacks, lighthouses and boat sheds.

On a morning in early December, Ms Kingston - a strong swimmer with a "healthy respect" for the ocean - surveyed the small surf along the main beach at Evans Head and decided to swim about 10 strokes out.

She soon found herself carried across the beach and out in a northerly direction, away from the Evans River breakwall. Fearing the cross-current would carry her into a bigger rip, she tried to resist and swim against the flow.

"I kept telling myself not to panic, but it is amazing how quickly you lose breath and energy," Ms Kingston said.

"I put my hand up - my brother was standing at the edge of the water - but for a while he thought I was just waving at him which was terrifying. I really thought I was a goner."

Patrolled beaches on the Northern Rivers.
Patrolled beaches on the Northern Rivers.

Eventually she stopped fighting the current and ended up travelling north, exhausted, until she miraculously hit sand.

"I was in the water 25 minutes fighting," Ms Kingston said, adding she felt "traumatised" for days afterwards.

"I would never go out of my depth anywhere again (and) I think someone else who probably wasn't as strong would have drowned."

She said councils and surf life saving clubs needed to step up safety measures.

"In a perfect world, I think it's really important that the councils fund patrols right through summer," she said.

Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman Donna Wishart said while voluntary patrols ran between September and April on weekends, any extra patrols or signage during the week were the responsibility of the local council.

Weekday patrols started across the Far North Coast the weekend before Christmas and run until January 27.

Richmond Valley Council was closed yesterday.



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