Making a splash on first day

WHEN newly-qualified surf lifesaver David Heggie saw a young girl struggling in the surf, his instincts kicked in. It didn't matter that he had just completed his bronze medallion moments beforehand -- he knew it was up to him to save her life.

Mr Heggie, 63, was participating in a training exercise last Sunday and was swimming in the surf at Rainbow Bay beach when the drama began. He says he saw the young girl get struck by a surfboard.

"I was swimming out there and saw this incident," Mr Heggie said.

"This big wave came and this surfboard rider tried to catch it and lost control of his board. His board flew out and hit the girl. She fell off her bodyboard and went under the wave."

Mr Heggie said he swam over to the girl, who he believes was aged between eight and 10, helped her back onto her board and assisted her to shore.

Rainbow Bay SLSC life member Ray Fien said he had never seen anyone perform a rescue so soon after becoming a qualified surf lifesaver. "It is unheard of," Mr Fien said. "There are blokes who have been in the club 30 years and never had to do a rescue. The club was really happy with Dave -- he has done extremely well."

But Mr Heggie, who recently moved to Tweed Heads from Canberra in search of a seachange, is reluctant to be labelled a hero. "I wouldn't exactly call it a rescue, I just happened to be there," he said modestly. "I just helped her back to the beach, she was pretty shaken. It was really no big deal."

But he admits it was a good feeling.

"It's been good fun," he said.

While it may seem unusual to be starting his surf lifesaving career at 63, Mr Heggie said it was all part of changing his lifestyle.

"I used to work for Geoscience Australia and have been involved with marine science all my life. Now I am taking the science out and just living the beach lifestyle," he said.

Mr Fien encouraged others to give surf lifesaving a try.

"The club is always looking for new members and anyone can complete their bronze. It takes about six weeks and you just have to be 15 years or older and be able to swim 400m in nine minutes or less."

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