Aussie surfer Russell Bierke has 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater and his mates to thank for surviving a dramatic incident in which he almost drowned.
The 19-year-old was surfing near Victoria’s Port Campbell beach with American surfing star Slater and friends Ryan Hipwood, Ross Clarke-Jones, Ben Serrano and Tom Carroll when disaster struck.
Bierke was knocked unconscious by his board, as his attentive friends quickly put him on a jetski sled and raced to the shore.
He arrived blue, with emergency oxygen – obtained by a bypassing paramedic from the nearby Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club – saving his life.
“I remember seeing a wave coming and then I was on the beach on all fours spewing (up water). I can’t remember the ski ride.
“I know I’m pretty lucky from everyone I’ve talked to. It’s probably good I don’t remember much.”
Jordan Lockett, a Moyne Shire councillor, was at the surf club for a training day when he witnessed the drama.
“Kevin Leddin one of our (Moyne Shire) directors said ‘I swear I just saw Kelly Slater carrying someone’ so I ran out onto the balcony,” Cr Lockett told The Warrnambool Standard.
“I yelled out and there was about four or five people standing around a body and I said ‘do you want me to call an ambulance?’
“Kelly said ‘call an ambulance’ then I was relaying down the phone what Kelly Slater was telling me – the vital signs. He’s got a pulse, he’s breathing but he’s not well. He was very disoriented. I grabbed the oxygen and ran outside.
“There was Slater, three or four other surfers and (Bierke) was just vomiting up water like flat out.
“He had really bloodshot eyes and he didn’t know where he was, who he was or what was happening. He was blue.”
Cr Lockett said Slater’s composure was crucial in the rescue act.
“Kelly was talking to him and said ‘It’s alright brother, help’s on its way’,” he added.
“I let him know the ambulance said they would be under 10 minutes.
“They arrived, they were really quick.
“Everyone helped and thank God that paramedic was there.”
Slater was in Australia for the recently completed Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, on Victoria’s Surf Coast, in which he reached the third round.
Aussie surfing great Mick Fanning ended Slater’s run in the event, eventually won by South African Jordy Smith.