HORROR RIP: 'We had no idea how dangerous this was'
A woman who was rescued from treacherous surf conditions along with a group of friends has thanked those who saved her.
Chiara Longhi was visiting Byron Bay from Bondi with her fiance and three other friends.
The group hired surfboards and were in the water at Wategos about 12pm on Saturday when trouble struck.
Ms Longhi said they had sought advice on a safe place to surf when they rented the boards.
But a strong sweep saw the group get into trouble between Wategos and The Pass.
She described the strong rip and being "smashed against the rocks".
The two on-duty lifeguards jumped in to help and alerted other authorities, who arrived soon after.
Ms Longhi said one man put one of their friends on his surfboard to help get her to shore while one of the members of their group remained stuck among the rocks.
After some time, everyone was ultimately helped to shore with only minor injuries.
"Really what saved us was first being around people and not getting panicked," Ms Longhi said.
She said they were immensely grateful to those who helped them.
"That people would do that for strangers is just incredible," she said.
"We had no idea how dangerous this was and that it was a combination of being very fit and lucky, but we would encourage everyone to be overly cautious."
Surf Life Saving Far North Coast duty officer Chris Samuels said a "strong sweep washing around the headland" was the key issue.
"We often get surfers get into distress around there," he said.
The Lifeguard supervisor and a volunteer Surf Life Saving duty officer attended the scene along with police, paramedics and a vertical rescue crew attended to assist.
He said it was a big effort to retrieve the woman stuck below the headland.
"It's quite a remote, hard-to-access part of the headland," he said.
He stressed the importance of being extra cautious in the water.
"Conditions can change very quickly … especially if you're not experienced or familiar with the area," Mr Samuels said.
"It's good to always go up, have a bit of a chat to the lifeguards or lifesavers on duty."
Saturday was a busy day in the water; while the Byron rescue was taking place, lifesavers were also attending to a surfing incident near Brunswick Heads Surf Life Saving Club.
"A male had come off his surfboard and the surfboard struck him in the ribs," Mr Samuels said.
He said the surfer had suffered suspected broken ribs and was feared to have a pierced lung.