Rescues at Canadian Bay

In September 2020, Oscar and Ryan Peddle found themselves trapped in Melbourne’s Covid 19 lockdown.  These two young brothers, Oscar seventeen years old at the time, and Ryan aged twenty one, are normally keen Mornington Peninsula surfers who’d go in search of waves at Rye, Flinders, Point Leo or Gunnamatta.  With a 5km travel limit, they were forced to stay local, which meant that a ‘bay wave’ at Canadian Bay, Mount Eliza was the best that they were going to get. With winds predicted to be 60-70 km per hour, they headed down to surf the four foot waves. Wind generated bay chop is relentless.  There are no sets followed by lulls – there is a very short swell period – just wave after wave generated by the gale force winds.  Conditions were such that Ryan noted afterwards, “I’ve never seen Canadian Bay ever like that before”.

Unaware of the unusually treacherous conditions awaiting them, three young girls arrived at the beach to have a swim at the boat ramp.  Before they could take stock of the situation, the three twelve year olds were swept off the ramp by a wave surge, into what witnesses described as a massively fierce rip.  Nearby, Oscar and Ryan were enjoying their surfing.  They would catch a wave, end up on shore and then walk back up the beach to the wave take off point.  As such, at the time of the unfolding drama, seventeen year old Portsea SLSC lifesaver Oscar Peddle had just arrived back on the beach after catching a wave.  Hearing a frantic mother of one of the girls calling out for help, Oscar’s father Richard, watching from the sand, also registered the seriousness of the situation, pointing it out to his son – three young girls in a rip, clearly panicked, one of them having an asthma attack, struggling against the current and in desperate need of immediate assistance. Those on shore signalled to Ryan, and another surfer who paddled over to support the girls.  Ryan reached the girls first and supported all three on his surf board until help arrived from Oscar, who had paddled back out to assist, and the other local surfer who came to aid the rescue.  The three surfers took one girl each and planned how to get them back to shore.

Both Oscar and Ryan are graduates of the Frankston High School Advance Youth Development program. Ryan went on to do his Surf Rescue Certificate and as a cadet joined the Mornington Life Saving Club and Oscar joined the Portsea Surf Life Saving Club where he continues to patrol with the Legends, often stepping up into acting patrol captain duties.  Lifesavers are skilled in board rescues, but transporting frantic and tired drowning victims back to shore on a short surfboard is very tricky, and not a skill that lifesavers would normally train to do.

Ryan managed to paddle back across the rip to the boat jetty, delivering a cold and shaken girl to her waiting mother. Meanwhile Oscar and the third surfer struggled to get the remaining two girls back to the beach.  One of the girls was quite tall, and Oscar found that having her on his surfboard with him meant that they were getting nowhere against the current.  Oscar decided that the best plan was to detach his leg rope, put the girl onto his board and push her back to shore.  Finally into the break zone Oscar managed to push her onto a wave towards the safety of shore, then without any floatation himself, exhausted from the effort, Oscar needed to dig deep, to swim himself against the current and back to the beach as the third girl was finally also safely returned to land by the third surfer.

The mother of one of the rescued girls managed to track down the Peddle brothers.  On hearing that Oscar was a current member of the Portsea SLSC, she emailed our president Matt Mahon to relay the story of the rescue and to express her deep felt gratitude for the bravery of both Oscar and Ryan.  Having witnessed the entire event from the shore she was in no doubt that if not for the immediate acts of courage and bravery by the two young men, at least one of the girls would have drowned that day.

Oscar is currently completing year 12 at Frankston High School, and Ryan an ex-student.  The two of them are shining examples of the merit of the Advance Youth Development Life Saving and Outdoor Education program that has been run at the school since 1993, currently under the guidance of Portsea member and teacher James Cameron, son of Portsea SLSC Life Member and founding teacher of the program, Rowan Cameron.

Supporters and members of the Portsea SLSC appreciate that stories such as this one are why we are all involved and why we continue to contribute, whether through training, patrolling, financially or through giving our time to pass on skills to our younger members and nippers.  

As an active member of our club, you never know when you will find yourself calling on the lifesaving, first aid or resuscitation skills that you have acquired in training to be a lifesaver. Oscar and Ryan Peddle are shining examples of the importance of the Frankston High School program and Oscar’s subsequent patrol experience at our club, as an essential emergency service and asset to our ‘water loving’ community.