Coast Nippers save man from drowning on Thai beach

Maroochydore SLSC nippers and best friends Tiarnee Massie (left), 12, and Grace Kaihau, 13, saved a man in the surf while they were holidaying in Thailand.
Maroochydore SLSC nippers and best friends Tiarnee Massie (left), 12, and Grace Kaihau, 13, saved a man in the surf while they were holidaying in Thailand. Brett Wortman

TWO Sunshine Coast surf lifesaving nippers on holiday in Thailand have saved a Canadian tourist's life.

Tiarnee Massie, 12, of Alexandra Headland, and Grace Kaihau, 13, of Cotton Tree, were surfing at Kata beach last month when the man got into trouble in a rip.

Tiarnee's mother, Amanda, who had been watching from the beach, signalled to the girls to help him as they were paddling in.

The girls, Maroochydore Surf Club mates and best friends, did not hesitate in launching into their first rescue.

"I said to him, 'Are you okay?' and he said, 'No' and I said, 'Are you in trouble?' and I told him to hop on my board but he couldn't," Tiarnee said.

Tiarnee paddled off to find the local life guard while Grace stayed with the man.


"I just kept telling him to get on my board... but he kept slipping off and I kept telling him to get back on and paddle and he kept saying 'I can't,' and I kept saying, 'Yes you can'," Grace said.

Thanks to the two girls, the man stayed afloat long enough for the life guard to get him to shore.

But their job was not over - they and their families helped rescue another five people who got into trouble in the same spot afterwards.

Mrs Massie, a trainer at the Maroochydore surf club, said the two girls were proficient in the water and neither she nor they were worried for their own safety.

She said the drowning man had initially been reluctant to take the board from 30kg Tiarnee because he was concerned for her safety but she left him in no doubt about what to do.

"I'm amazed. She was just so forthright in saying, 'Get on my board'," Mrs Massie said.

"He said til the day he dies, he'll remember her voice saying, 'Get on my board'."

The grateful man, Laszlo Dombovary, an experienced bodysurfer, later sent them a heartfelt email.

"For my part…I will never forget this moment and those first few words Tiarnee yelled at me…" he wrote.

"They are burned into my brain, as their names are etched into my heart and I am sure as I breathe my last …many, many years from now…

"I will hear them again 'Get on my board' and I will happily do so.

"Thanks to Tiarnee and Grace again and again… and thank you all for your club. It is a fantastic concept that the whole world could use as a lesson. Thank you all."

Mrs Massie said three people drowned at Kata beach in their five days there.

The Massies and Kaihaus are now working on a way of boosting the under-resourced life guard service on the beach.

Topics:  editors picks maroochydore surf life saving club nippers rescue surf life saving thailand

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