HEROIC SURF RESCUE: 'Two minutes later, and he'd be gone'
AVID swimmer Erik Fink thought a his morning dip was out of the question when he went to Turner's Beach, Yamba, to check out the cyclone whipped waves.
That all changed when he saw a teenage boy floundering in the whitewash as a rip dragged him out to sea.
"It was just gut instinct that put me there exactly within minutes of what happened," he said.
The teenager was one of two that were in the shallows of the beach, and as one let the whitewash come around him, the rip dragged him away from his companion.
Getting further away, Mr Fink said the kid looked at his mate on the shore, and just shook his head.
With a large crowd of onlookers watching on, Mr Fink stripped to his undies and dived into the tumultuous surf, putting his years of swim experience to the test.
"I thought if I don't help him now, two minutes later and he'd be gone," Mr Fink said.
He swam over to the teenager, and began to calm him down, getting him to only move by breaststroke to conserve energy.
"I just talked to him, get him to calm because he'd obviously lost a bit of energy and he was going need the rest of the energy back in," Mr Fink said.
"All the while I'm just keeping an eye on the surf as we drifted out."
Carried by the rip for "100 or 200 metres" out to sea, Mr Fink noticed a man waving from the shore offering a surfboard, who threw it out to help them.
"I left him for a bit, swam over to the get the board, came back to the kid and told him that you're gonna hold on for your dear life, no matter what," he said.
The pair rode the board back towards the beach, but as they approached the shore kept getting pushed back into the rip and dragged out again.
"I knew then we were going to have go over the rocks, and we got a couple of waves that pushed us there, and we scrambled back over the rocks and out of the waves," he said.
Witnesses said the whole rescue took nearly half an hour, which Mr Fink said was possible, but had lost track of time in the effort.
"Time just runs totally differently out there. I can remember seeing people in the background as well but I was so focussed on the situation," he said.
"At the end of the day it was teamwork, the kid did a great job too he responded to everything I said, and I probably didn't have any energy left at the end."
The humble statement belies what many witnesses left on the rocky shore saw, with people applauding and cheering the Yamba's man's brave actions, calling them heroic.
"I appreciate the feedback," he said. "But really we're all heroes, we're all legends. We all do what we can do, and I did what I could in the situation," he said.
"And I'd do it for anyone.
"I really hope the kid is doing fine.. and a big thank you to the gentlemen for the board which was a massive help. I hope I didn't put any dings in it."
"I guess at the end of the day, I did get my daily swim in... but I'd never go out in something like that normally."