When Toby Adams went on a holiday to Thailand last November, he was not expecting to rescue a family of snorkellers while touring Phuket’s popular Phi Phi Islands.
Toby, a lifesaver at North Wollongong surf club, had been dropped off at one of the islands with a group of family and friends before the drama unfolded.
‘‘Dad noticed two women who were from our boat were screaming for help; they had been shot out by the current about 200 metres,’’ he said.
‘‘We thought it was all a joke at first.
‘‘Dad and I decided to swim out there, he had the massive snorkelling flippers on but I had nothing,’’ he said.
‘‘So I was stuck with this woman, because without flippers I couldn’t really fight the current.
‘‘I stayed underneath her, treading water for her, keeping her afloat.’’
After 20 minutes Toby managed to wave down a boat and the crew took the woman on board.
It was then he noticed members of the woman’s family in distress on a nearby reef, closer to shore.
‘‘I swam to the reef and helped my family rescue those men, they just couldn’t swim properly.
‘‘I was just happy that they were safe.’’
Last Saturday, Toby was rewarded for his efforts with an individual merit award from Surf Life Saving Australia as part of their National Awards of Excellence.
The 17-year-old has been part of North Wollongong’s SLSC for 10 years and has been a lifesaver for four years.
In addition to patrolling the beach, Toby studies at the flying school at Albion Park airport.
‘‘I want to be a pilot, the Defence Force is my priority,’’ he said.
‘‘It links back to the surf club, spending my time at the beach as a kid, always having the navy helicopters fly over.
‘‘I used to just stand there, watching and admiring them.’’
It has been a week of great achievements for Toby, who passed the aptitude test for the Defence Force on Monday.
‘‘I passed the pilot one,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve been stressing out for the past four years, I still have a long way to go but that’s one of the more significant milestones of the process.’’
The surfer and Defence Force hopeful has also just started coaching for the surf club this week.
‘‘I’m teaching kids how to paddle on a board,’’ he said.
‘‘Today is my first session and the kids can range from eight to 14 years-old.’’