What was planned as a casual afternoon of surfing turned into a dramatic beach rescue for a Canberra father and son last Sunday.
Shortly after arriving at an unpatrolled South Coast beach on the afternoon of March 12, 16-year-old William Nash and his father, Kevin, were alerted to a family of five struggling in a rip.
With no time to spare, the quick-thinking Conder teenager handed a surfboard to a beachgoer to assist three of the children and paddled out himself to rescue the father and another child.
"I paddled out to the father and his young daughter … he was under the water and she was screaming, trying to hold him up," William told Fairfax Media.
"I grabbed him by the neck and put his head on my board. If it was 30 seconds later, he would have been gone."
Kevin also took part in the rescue.
William said the man, believed to be aged in his thirties, was unconscious when plucked from the rip.
"The whole time we were in the water, he wasn't good," William said.
They spent tense minutes trying to get the man to regain consciousness.
"He did get a bit of awareness and almost gave up and wanted to slide back into the water, but we just didn't let him," William said.
He said the rip had pulled the man and young girl more than 15 metres out from the Denhams Beach headland.
"I put him and the little girl on my board, sitting in the rip for a bit," William said.
"I jumped off and had the nose of the board and swam backwards until the waves were pushing us into shore.
"About 20 metres off shore, another bloke helped me carry him to shore and we laid him on his side."
William, Kevin and other beachgoers stayed with the man until paramedics arrived minutes later.
Far South Coast Surf Life Saving spokesman Andrew Edmunds said the rescue was one of several during the weekend's big swells.
"The father responded well to treatment on shore by ambulance and was transported to hospital in a conscious state," Mr Edmunds said.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the man was taken to Batemans Bay Hospital and later flown to Canberra in a stable condition, where he was discharged on Monday.
Mr Edmunds said the children did not require treatment.
Two days after the rescue, William said he was struggling to come to terms with the near tragedy.
"It was not until after it really hit me," William said. "I can't stop thinking about it."
For the teenager, staying focused on the rescue at hand helped him in those frightening moments.
"I just had to be focused on what was happening," he said. "Someone had to be strong and sensible out there. I just took charge of it and grabbed my board."
Father Kevin said he couldn't be prouder of his son's brave act.
"Kids these days cop a lot of flack and don't get recognition," he said. "He's more of a man than I was at 16."
Despite being an avid watergoer, William said the incident was his most traumatic surf encounter so far.
"I know how dangerous rips can be, but this was the first experience I've had that was that bad in the water," he said.
The close call served as a reminder for beachgoers to learn to identify how dangerous rip currents flow.
Erindale College, where William is currently a Year 11 student, also paid tribute to his rescue efforts on social media.
"With disregard for his own welfare, Will swiftly decided to act," the school wrote on Facebook. "Congratulations to Will and his dad Kevin for their great inspirational efforts."