SAVED BY SURF HERO
By LUIS FELIU
DARREN Bartles' chance decision to check the Kingscliff surf yesterday saved a man's life.
Mr Bartles, an off-duty lifeguard from the Gold Coast's Wet 'N Wild theme park, was waiting for a friend when he wandered out to check surf conditions in front of the caravan park at north Kingscliff at 9.30 yesterday morning.
When he looked out to sea he got the surprise of his life.
"I was just looking at the surf and thought I saw a dolphin beyond the breakers about 100 metres out,'' he said. ''Then I realised it was a person waving and thought 's..t someone's in trouble'.
"I ran back to my car and rang 000.
"I told them I had a board in my car and I'd try and get him.''
The man, a visitor to the area believed to be in his 30s, had been swept out to sea by the strong current.
''I paddled out but couldn't see him and kept yelling out 'where are you mate?','' Mr Bartles said.
"When I spotted him I approached him cautiously because from experience people can freak out and panic and try to drown you as well. It was also a bit rippy.
"When I got to him he said 'thanks so much mate, I didn't think anyone would see me'. I put him on the board and swam beside him as we paddled back.
"He was stoked and gave me a big cuddle.
He told me he would never go in the surf again.
"He was very frightened of the waves and had been swept from a long way out.''
"I was lucky I got to him," said an exhausted Mr Bartles, 37, of Palm Beach, minutes after the dramatic rescue.
With light rain falling yesterday morning, the beach was all-but deserted and conditions were a little rough.
Police, rescue, ambulance and local surf lifesaving club volunteers rushed to the beach after the man's frantic wife alerted them that her husband had been swept out to sea.
The man did not require treatment or hospitalisation and was taken back along the beach in an ambulance to where his wife was waiting.
Locals said he must have been a strong swimmer to have survived and kept afloat in the choppy seas for the time it took him to be rescued.
He was in the water for at least 20 minutes.
Mr Bartles said he just wanted a strong cup of coffee and to "chill out and relax" after the drama.
"I'm over surfing today," he said.
He is no stranger to rescues though ? often he has had to use his board to save people struggling in the surf at his favoured break, Currumbin Alley.
"Four rescues in two years is enough ? my kids think I'm a part-time super hero," he said.