Champion: Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard of the Year, Sonny Tisdell, doing what he loves.
Champion: Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard of the Year, Sonny Tisdell, doing what he loves.

Sawtell lifeguard recognised

SONNY Tisdell has never sought recognition for the lives he’s saved in the surf.

In fact, he’s even avoided it, declining two bravery award nominations for life saving feats. But as the likeable Sawtell lifeguard found out this week, praise has a habit of catching up with those who deserve it most.

Voted by his peers as the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard of the Year, this time he didn’t have a chance of backing away from the recognition.

“I don’t like being put into the spotlight, I’d rather stay in the background but I realise that this award is a good thing for the city and surf life saving locally,” Sonny said.

Even before his 13 years service as a council-employed lifeguard, Sonny had performed his fair share of beach and ocean rescues.

One came in big seas off Sawtell. While scanning the beach for a wave, he noticed a catamaran had capsized.

Paddling out to the sinking vessel on his surfboard, Sonny is said to have waited with the stricken sailor until a rescue was mounted.

The conditions were so heavy that not even the NSW Police boat could respond.

“The catamaran’s sail had collapsed and its mast had broken, it was a tough situation to be in, strong south-east swell and winds and we kept getting swept onto the reef off the headland,” Sonny said. “But in the end, we got there.”

Other rescues he coordinated involved an aifcraft crash off Bongil Bongil beach and another where a kite surfer almost drowned when his leg rope became snared on a reef. Apart for that, Sonny’s dedication to surf safety has also been commended along with his big wave surfing.



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