How a leisurely paddle turned into a nightmare
By SALLY GORDON
IT TOOK a few attempts at trying to flag someone down before an exhausted Peter Sweetman finally was rescued from Yamba's Middle Wall.
The Yamba Surf Club member was stranded on a rock ledge in the middle of the Clarence River on Sunday after a leisurely paddle turned into a gruelling test of survival.
Mr Sweetman had paddled from his canal-front home in Yamba in the hope of catching some wind-whipped waves at Whiting Beach.
However, the experienced surfer was almost dragged out to sea when the rudder cable on his ski snapped in the open river, halfway between Middle Wall and Moriartys Wall.
"The tide was incredibly strong and I faced the real prospect of being swept over the bar out to sea, never to be seen again, so I paddled as best I could," he said.
After paddling over to Moriartys Wall and not being able to hitch a tow-in or paddle around to the beach at Iluka, Mr Sweetman eventually made his way to the Middle Wall where he climbed onto rocks covered in razor-sharp oyster shells.
"I could not get around the end of the wall (Moriartys). I was in the one spot for half-an-hour getting very tired," he said.
"I decided I didn't want to drown, so using the runout tide I was able to make my way out to the Middle Wall, I climbed up dragging my ski and thought I'm just going to have to sit here until I get some help."
The Yamba man ended up being picked up by a Grafton-based SES crew despite a number of boats passing by without stopping.
Mr Sweetman said he had made a number of attempts to get help from fellow seagoers, without success.
"Boats were going past and I was waving my oar at them and they all just waved back at me," he said.
"I think everyone needs to be more aware of things happening in the river and look out for fellow river users."