A THAI lifeguard on exchange with Cudgen Headland Surf Lifesaving Club at Kingscliff who was washed out to sea in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was honoured for her services in a small ceremony at Kingscliff Beach yesterday.
Jongdee "Pla" Hemkeaw, 25, from Phuket and Member for Richmond Justine Elliot, the patron of the Cudgen SLSC, exchanged Australian and Thai flags to recognise the sister-club relationship between the Phuket Lifeguard Club, to which Pla belongs, and the Cudgen SLSC.
Pla, a nickname which means fish, was also present- ed with a plaque and nipper board to take home later this month when she finishes her six-week stint as a volunteer and professional lifeguard with the Cudgen club and as a part-time lifeguard at Club Banora pool.
About 100 Cudgen SLSC Nippers and other club members joined in the ceremony for Pla, who is the first woman in Thailand to qualify for Australian Surf Lifesaving's gold medallion.
When the tsunami hit the resort town of Khao Lak,Pla was washed out to sea and had to swim for three hours to get back to land.
Since then Pla has increased her lifesaving skills in order to pass them on to other Thai lifeguards.
Yesterday Pla said she had enjoyed her stay in the Tweed and did not feel so homesick after making so many friends.
Ms Elliot said Pla's work at the local club had been greatly appreciated.
The Phuket Lifeguard Club was set up three years ago by teacher and Cudgen SLSC deputy president David Field who regularly travels to Thailand to train lifeguards and organise exchange for Thais to gain experience.