Sydney man David Pelman is lucky there was an engagement party being held at the nearby surf club when he decided to go for a late night swim at Austinmer Beach last Saturday.
Four men from the party – as well as another late-night beach goer – have been hailed as heroes after their quick reactions saved Mr Pelman’s life when he was dragged to the back of the rock pools by a rip current.
One of the men, Jackson Parr, described how he was outside his cousin’s party taking a photo with his partner when he heard a scream in the distance.
“I saw a woman hysterically screaming running up from the surf and instincts just kicked in,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I started sprinting towards the surf and as I ran past the woman she screamed my partner is drowning. I ran into the surf and just started swimming as fast as I could.”
Mr Parr said it took him “about five minutes” to find Mr Pelman, who was floating on his back choking.
“I held him up treading water for about five minutes until another guy found us out there and we grabbed him by his hair and started swimming for shore,” he said.
By this point Woonona man Scott Kohlhardt and his two friends Shaun Blair and Ryan Prain had heard the commotion but couldn’t really tell what was going on until they went out to the edge of the rock pool.
Mr Blair, who lives at Woonona but grew up in the shire and is a director of the Woronora Heights business Element Metal Roofing, then ran back to the surf club and found two Nippers boards.
“He and Ryan stripped off to their undies and paddled out to the guys in the water who were a fair way out, Mr Kohlhardt said.
“[Mr Pelman] was in a real bad way, he was struggling.”
The men were then washed onto the rocks, but the drowning man slipped back into the ocean clinging to Mr Prain’s board.
“That’s when I jumped in with a board,” Mr Kohlhardt said. “The guy was so big, I was worried he was going to grab Ryan and pull him under. He was fighting for his life – we were just telling him ‘mate, you’ve got to try to hold on to the board’.”
“[After about 20 minutes in the water] two waves came and sort of hit us, and we knew we’d have to go straight up the rocks.”
Back on land, the men were met by paramedics who put Mr Pelman on oxygen.
“I think we all shook hands, and we handed him over to the paramedics, and then we went back to the party because they wanted to get the speeches underway,” Mr Kohlhardt said.
On Sunday, Mr Pelman took to social media to thank his rescuers.
“Thanks heaps bro wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for you and the boys you were with GOD BLESS YOU.”