Eight lives saved in two separate rescues at same beach!
The former world number ten surfer, Bryce Ellis, has experienced a wild case of deja vu, literally “already seen”, on Monday when he saved two drowning teenage girls from a rip at Yamba, a pretty fishing town a little south of Byron Bay.
Ellis, who is fifty-eight and who was described, a little unfairly I think, as “ginger-haired” in Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, was fishing at Yamba’s Main Beach when he saw the girls jump into a rip at the northern end of the beach.
Ellis handed his fishing pole to a bystander and jumped, fully clothed, into the drink.
With the help of a nearby surfer, the pair saved the two kids.
“They were a little bit anxious I think,” Ellis told ABC News. “Whenever you go into an oxygen debt, I think, it does get a bit frightening… You’ve either got to get to the sandbank or let it take its course or wash over to the rocks… It really rockets out … it looks like beautiful water but there’s a certain spot where it does get very strong and it drops off.”
Four years earlier in 2018, same scenario, Ellis was fishing when he heard screams and saw a group of six nurses caught in the same rip.
“I don’t think they had very good swimming skills,” he said. “One of the five women had gone under a few times and had swallowed water.”
Ellis swam out, worked out who was in most danger, and, collecting ’em in pairs, eventually got all six women safely to shore, a feat that earned him a bravery award.
In the citation it was said the event could have “easily turned into a major search operation.”
Ellis says respecting the ocean and knowing your limits is real important, something 1984’s rookie of the year has always lived by.
In 1986, Ellis and fellow Australian Gary Green withdrew from the opening round of the Billabong Pro at Waimea Bay because the surf was too big.
The wonderful Mara Wolford, RIP, was Bryce’s girl in 1986 and wrote poetically about the moment.
Bryce would never live that morning down. There was a North Shore winter, a couple of years later, when Bryce and I stayed in a house right on the Bay. One morning, the friend we were rooming with woke me at dawn to go surf Pinballs, when it was just starting to cap on the Bay reef proper, so that when Bryce woke up the first thing he saw see was me out in the lineup. I had fun out there. Not until later did I discover that our friend’s motivation was to poke fun at Bryce.
It went on for years. There were articles, lots of heckling and jokes, and a perceptible freeze-out from the world tour’s League of Titans. It is crystal-clear to me now, however, and has been for decades, that Bryce did exactly as he should have that morning at the Billabong contest. He followed his own judgement, listened to his better, and acted on logic and experience—or lack thereof.
There is nothing stronger or more elegant than a man who doesn’t bow to the crowd.