April 21 - 27, 2024: Issue 622


Warriewood cliff-rescue wins state award: SLS NSW rescue of the month

The lifesaver behind a major rescue in January believes the efforts of herself and her patrol team should act as a reminder that swimming where there are no flags in challenging surf is a recipe for danger.

Saskia Rundle-Trowbridge and her Inflatable Rescue Boat driver, Adam Kovac (Warriewood SLSC), alongside two members from Mona Vale SLSC, have been awarded the Surf Life Saving NSW Rescue of the Month for their role in bringing three people back to shore after they became stuck at the base of a cliff in the mouth of the notorious Warriewood blowhole on 21 January 2024.

This particular area of the beach is familiar to patrol members as it is a popular jump location where the water entry point is the beginning of a small tunnel leading from one side of a cliff face to another – hence the blowhole, particularly on a day with significant swells and water movement.

The rescue, which came under five minutes into Saskia’s patrol and was her first ever in an IRB, was highly publicised at the time, with many labelling her a “teen hero”, but the 16-year-old remains level-headed and rescue-ready as ever.

“I’m just happy that everyone was alright,” she said.

“The boys got back safe and neither myself nor anyone in my patrol was harmed performing the rescue. Our aim is to keep people safe and keep ourselves safe too.

“You might think ‘oh it’s okay, I’m a strong swimmer, I’ll be fine.’ But you can still find yourself in a bad situation.”

Saskia Rundle-Trowbridge

Saskia also saved special mention for her driver, Adam, who, as a Patrol Captain and trainer himself, was able to call on years of experience to help coach Saskia through the rescue.

“I’m so grateful for the rest of my patrol and for Adam. It genuinely was a team effort and wouldn’t have happened without them. Adam was talking me through the whole time,” she said.

The assistance of the Mona Vale SLSC IRB crew of Mark Bonney and Jacob Rodwell was also invaluable – the pair being acknowledged in the Rescue of the Month award for also responding and aiding in the retrieval of the three boys.

While the IRBs couldn’t get close to the cliff due to the conditions, the second boat proved helpful in bringing all three boys safely back to shore once Saskia had swum out with her rescue tube and retrieved them.

“The whole time we were climbing back down to the rocks and swimming out to the boat, I just kept repeating, ‘we’re going to be okay’. My goal the entire time was to keep both the boys and myself safe,” Saskia said.

Report: SLS NSW April 9, 2024

''Our amazing surf life-saving crews have done it again. Over the weekend, junior volunteer Saskia Rundle Trowbridge helped rescue three swimmers trapped in a cave at Warriewood Blowhole.

The 16-year-old had to navigate some seriously dangerous surf to reach the boys – one of whom required urgent medical attention after injuring his head cliff-jumping.

Fortunately for them, Saskia is no stranger to the ocean and has been surveilling the shore for over ten years.

And with the help of her team, she pulled off her first major rescue.

It’s pretty remarkable.

Thank you Saskia for your courage and service, our great beaches are lucky to have you.'' - NSW Premier Chris Minns, January 2024

Photos; Saskia (Image: supplied) and Team Wazza; 15 IRB Crew got through their assessment on March 23 2024(Image: Warriewood SLSC).