November 7 - 13, 2021: Issue 517


teens calm thinking - action during surf incident at newport demonstrates value of bronze medallion

An incredible exhibition of composure and bravery in difficult circumstances has seen a potentially awful accident become a shining example of Nipper education after a young Newport SLSC member was rescued during a club training session.

Charli Barbour was completing her Ironperson race training with as many as 30 other elite young athletes from the Newport club on Wednesday 20 October, when a large wave propelled her into a sandbank, landing heavily on her back.

In serious pain and with her legs beginning to tingle, the 12-year-old did her best to signal to those back on shore, where water safety personnel and two other teens – Bailey Clues and Jake Morris, who were also part of the training program – came to Charli’s aid and assisted in carrying her to shore.

The reaction of those around her is to be commended – particularly the actions of champion competitors Bailey and Jake who were not only prepared for the moment, but willing to act when it was required. There is no doubt their assistance made a great deal of difference on the day.

Of note, however, was Charli’s composure and surf safety knowledge when panic and fear were surely the easiest emotions to feel. 

“She’s quite mature and quite intelligent for her age; a smart girl,” Charli’s father David said.

“She’s been around surf for most of her life and she’s familiar with what to do in those situations.

“We’re proud of her. She realised something wasn’t quite right, she kept herself nice and still in the water, put her hand up, and the boys went in and got her.”

Bailey Clues (left) and Jake Morris (second from right) were involved in the rescue.

While paramedics took Charli to hospital that evening, she was released the next day and has already taken steps towards a full recovery, jumping back into flat water swimming at Manly pool. 

“She’ll bounce straight back into it,” David continued.

“She’s so determined and so focused.

“Two or three weeks out of the ocean is two or three weeks out of her program, so she’s keen to get back.

“We went back down to the club on the weekend and spoke to all the kids, let them know she’s good. We know a few of them had some sleepless nights as well and Charli wanted them to know she was okay.”

Reflecting on the events afterwards, Jake Morris was just glad to hear that Charli was doing well and was happy within himself that he reacted appropriately.

“It was good knowing you’ll react that way. I just did my Bronze Medallion last year, so it was fresh in my mind – you don’t ever want to see someone in a bad situation,” he said.

“At first the boys thought it was a drill,” David added.

“They were really good though. Once they realised it was serious, they switched on.”

Report and photos - Surf Life Saving New South Wales.