A chance conversation with a lifeguard proved valuable sooner than reader, Sam Almond, ever guessed
Many years ago I would go to Australia on business. On the Saturday of my four week stay, I went to Bondi Beach in Sidney for a swim. On walking across the large circle of sand at Bondi, I passed the lifeguard's ladder-tower just as a lifeguard was coming down. On the spur of the moment, I asked him how he ever recognised a swimmer in trouble, when the sea was rough with much 'white water'.
His reply, "We know quite easily, they lay on their back and put one arm straight up - that's what we look for and it always works. We soon then get them out."
I was due to catch my plane home the next day at about 3pm, so, in the morning, I carefully packed everything and left it with reception at my Sidney hotel telling them I would pick it up later at about noon, to take a taxi to the airport.
I then headed early to nearby Manley Beach for a last sun bathe and swim. I took no belongings or identification, except for the fare to and back from Manley. I carefully worked out my last timed swim to nicely return to Sidney in good time.
After my sun bathing, I then entered the water, not within the marked safetl zone as I was a strong and confident swimmer and always took these chances. The strong surf at this part of Manley beach was another thing entirely, and some way out, on commencing my return to shore, I got caught in a vicious rip which was far too much for me to handle. I shouted loudly for help but distant surfers could not hear. I felt extreme danger as I was being dragged further out to sea.
But then my chance previous day's lifeguard conversation came to me. I lay on my back with one arm raised and very soon was saved by a Manley lifeguard on a float. Happily all ended well with much personal relief and a lesson well learned. The arm signal is universal and well worth knowing.
My wife, who was due to meet me at the UK airport, but for my Bondi Beach timely walk, might never have known what became of me - and may have had many very diverse thoughts about it all.