Wherever there’s a surf lifesaver, they are ready and willing to protect the community and save a life.

You never know when you could need a surf lifesaver, and it may not even be on the beach when they happen to be there in your time of need.

A hero at just sixteen years of age

Bilinga Surf Life Saving Club volunteer surf lifesaver Joshua McIlwain was enjoying a day at Palm Beach with his family on the 4th October 2021. He had been discussing the surf conditions with his grandfather, John Hoyland – a long-serving surf lifesaver and former Club Captain of Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club. It was a day of dangerous surf with a strong northerly rip current with a strong undertow. John was pointing out to Josh what the quickest and safest way would be to rescue someone from the rip if the need arose.

A week before this beach outing, Josh completed his Bronze Medallion training – the level of training required by surf lifesavers to undertake beach patrol services and be equipped with the lifesaving skills and knowledge required of a surf lifesaver.

Given the conditions on the day that Josh and his family visited the beach, his grandfather wanted to make sure his grandkids all got out of the water safely before he left for the day. They all returned to shore and decided they would stay out of the water and remain on the sand, so John headed home.

Josh and his siblings were playing touch football on the sand when Josh noticed a young boy in the water caught in the rip current he had just been discussing with his grandfather. He was quickly being dragged out to sea. The young boy’s parents were frantically trying to get out to save him from drowning.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Josh put into practice the lifesaving training that was so fresh in his mind, as well as the advice he had just received from his grandfather. Grabbing a boogie board off the sand as he ran into the water, Josh was focused on getting to the boy as quickly as possible.

By this stage, not only did the young boy require rescuing, but the boy’s mother had also got caught in the rip while trying to help her son and was becoming increasingly distressed.

Josh continued to swim out to the pair, extending the boogie board to them. He told them to grab onto the board and reassured them that they would be okay. The on-duty surf lifesavers further down the beach had also been alerted to the rescue underway and assisted Josh by taking the boy’s mother back to shore on a rescue board while Josh brought her son safely back to shore on the boogie board.

“It only took about two or three minutes, but it felt like two or three hours,” Josh said.

Josh relied on the training he had just received to calmly and effectively rescue the 10-year-old boy.

“One of the big things we learned was don’t panic; be calm, otherwise you will make the other person more stressed. You need to communicate to them that they’re okay and they’ll be back to shore soon. They need to be reassured,” he said.

Watching on from the shore, Josh’s mum, Megan, saw the whole event unfold.

“I was thinking, ‘hurry up and get to the little boy but also hurry up and get out of the water!’

“It makes me cry every time I think about what Josh did. To watch him put those skills into practice so seamlessly without a second thought of himself, I really am so proud and so grateful that he could help save a life,” Megan said.

Being a family that has grown up on the coast and spent most weekends at the beach, Megan knew the situation could have ended very differently if not for Josh’s bravery and quick thinking.

“It was quite unpredictable surf; it wasn’t a safe day. It could have gone two ways, especially when the mum got into distress too,” she said.

Both Josh and Megan credit his Surf Life Saving training for preparing him so well for such an occasion, allowing the rescue skills to come naturally to him.

Did you know?

We are a charity and a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR), meaning gifts of $2 and over are tax-deductible. You can help save lives while saving on tax!

If you donate online from 1st June 2022, gifts of up to $250 will be matched by our Community Partner, Isuzu UTE Australia up to a total value of $82,400. You will be seeing double and your gift will have double the impact!

Donation Matching Terms and Conditions:

All online donations up to $250 made to the SLSMISSIONZERO fundraising page on The Surf Life Saving Foundation website confirmed by a donation receipt from 08.00am Australian Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, 1 June 2022 will be matched by Isuzu UTE Australia to a total capped sum of $AUD82,400. Matched donations will appear on the SLSMISSIONZERO fundraising page, daily. The Surf Life Saving Foundation will notify supporters via its Surf Life Saving Foundation Facebook page when the dollar match is reached. Thank you to all donors and to Isuzu UTE Australia.

Where does my money go? Can even a small donation help? Your questions answered.

The Surf Life Saving Foundation (SLSF) is the fundraising arm of Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA). SLSA is Australia’s peak authority on beach safety, drowning prevention and rescue.

The SLSF was established to support our unique not-for-profit community cause that exists through community donations, fundraising, corporate sponsorships and government grants.

With over 180,000 members and 315 affiliated Surf Life Saving Clubs, SLS represents the largest volunteer movement of its kind in Australia, and the world.
The Surf Life Saving Foundation distributes funds raised through your donations to support Surf Life Saving Branches and Clubs around the country. Your donations are predominantly used by Surf Life Saving to:

- Maintain and replace lifesaving rescue equipment
- Enhance the training and development programs for volunteer surf lifesavers
- Expand community surf safety campaigns
- Fund aquatic safety research and development
- Continue to provide support services including communications networks, aerial patrols and powered watercraft
Absolutely! Every single donation you make helps us to save more lives on the beach.

Every year millions of people visit our beaches, and thousands of these visitors find themselves in urgent need of a life saving rescue. This is what we are here for, to keep your family and friends safe in the water.

Your support today will ensure that millions of adults and children who visit the beach go home safely.
Australia and its related islands have over 11,500 beaches dispersed along more than 50,000km of coastline, attracting an estimated 500+ million visits every year. Our volunteer surf lifesavers are always kept busy. We have over 180,000 volunteers from over 315 different surf clubs across Australia, and with the help of your generous donations, they make sure that Australia has some of the safest beaches in the world.

Did you know?
- It costs at least $850 to train a new volunteer to Bronze Medallion standard. Surf lifesavers are trained in First Aid, CPR and rescue techniques. Importantly, all of our lifesavers must continue to refresh and update their skills.

- Rescue gear and equipment are some of the largest costs associated with providing lifesaving services throughout Australia. A full life saving patrol can cost up to $80,000.

- Prevention is better than cure, and the best way to save lives at the beach is by teaching people how to stay out of danger. We run campaigns on how to spot rips and what to do if you are caught in one (swim parallel to the shore!).

No matter what area your donation goes towards, you can be sure that it will make a vital contribution to saving lives.
The SLSF Board continues as the Trustees of the Surf Life Saving Rescue Fund Trust. The Trust was established in 2002 to provide an additional and more assured ongoing source of funding for the movement. 

Could you give regularly?

As well as training new volunteer surf lifesaver, your monthly donation helps repair and replace the equipment that constant exposure to the sun and sea can damage. As a Guardian of the Surf your monthly donation ensures that we are rescue-ready at a moment’s notice. You would be the silent hero behind every life saved.

Join our Guardians of the Surf family today
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