Tanya Braithwaite on Wednesday at Noosa Main Beach.
Tanya Braithwaite on Wednesday at Noosa Main Beach. Alan Lander

Woman in dress rescues four men from bay

TEWANTIN'S Tanya Braithwaite wasn't planning on swimming a long way across Laguna Bay to save the lives of four young men on Monday evening.

Especially while wearing a dress.

But in the cooling, gathering dusk while taking her regular walk along Noosa Main Beach between the groyne and the river mouth, the 54-year-old Uber driver thought she saw a small craft beyond the choppy waves, at least 100m out.

At the same time she noted there were two unclaimed li-los on the beach nearby, and at the same moment a female Norwegian backpacker walked up to her with the same querying look as to what was out there.

"We were able to make out a brown inflatable object and at least one person in the water,” Tanya said.

Instinct took over for Tanya, a fit surfer and former Gold Coast lifeguard from 15 years ago.

She asked the backpacker to contact police, ambulance and local lifeguards and strode into the water, despite it already being suppertime for large marine predators.

"I wondered if I should take my dress off, but didn't,” Tanya said.

"I swam out and found four backpacker guys hanging off a blow-up double-doughnut, and they were not really going anywhere.”

They had been sucked out with the outgoing tide and with the combined push-pull effect of the tide, waves and river flow, were bouncing around in the same spot but slowly moving parallel to the beach toward the river mouth, Tanya said.

"They didn't know the conditions and had gone out further than they had realised, and apparently none of them were strong swimmers but they didn't want to ditch the doughnut, so there they were.

"They were calm but they realised they were in a bit of trouble.”

It took 40 minutes of trying to move them toward the shore, alternating between pushing the doughnut ahead and playing swim catch-up.

"I was giving them a lesson in hydrodynamics and weight distribution on blow-up floaty things,” Tanya quipped.

Once they reached the outer sandbank they were able to catch some broken waves, which pushed the doughnut in towards the shore.

"We were able to stand up in the safety of the shallows, but even then the rip was fiercely trying to pull us back out,” Tanya said.

It was dark by the time they made it to the beach.

"The ambos arrived and made sure everyone was OK and left. The surf lifesavers arrived and left. The police phoned in. Everyone was OK,” Tanya said.

The lads were a bit shaken, but thanked Tanya and invited her for dinner at the Junction's Village Bicycle.

"My dress was still wet, so they lent me a towel and a t-shirt - that had to do.

"And our new Norwegian friend came along. Two of the fellows were German, one American and one Australian.

"The American had a look in his eye when he said 'you saved my life'. I suspect he wasn't a swimmer at all - but then, he came from Colorado.”

They swapped contacts but Tanya felt it was just one of those passing events and no ongoing connection was likely to be made.

"This night I used all my local knowledge and training as a surfer a swimmer and an ex-lifesaver to help out in a situation that easily could have ended up a lot worse,” Tanya wrote to herself later that evening.

"Everyone now has a story to tell of their trip to Noosa and I'm feeling pretty good. Today I did good.”

Two young German men, one Australian, and one American in particular, will say "amen” to that.