This is the moment a drowning swimmer used her last ounce of energy and flung her hand in the air to get the attention of surf lifesavers.
In a dramatic rescue on the eastern suburbs of Sydney, these powerful images come as a stark reminder about water safety ahead of a spring heatwave and a scorching summer.
The woman was only moments away from death when she was plucked to safety by two men at Bronte Beach on Thursday.
Lifeguards make their way out to the woman, using a rip to get to her as quickly as possible
The first lifeguard gets to the woman at the last possible moment as it appears she is about to go under the waves for the final time
How to stay safe if you are caught in a rip
Relax – stay calm and float to conserve your energy.
Raise – raise your arm and attract attention from lifeguards or lifesavers.
Rescue – the lifeguards or lifesavers will be on their way to help you.
While floating, rip currents may flow in a circular pattern and return you to an adjacent sandbar
You may escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach, towards the breaking waves.
Reassess your situation. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try one of the other options until you’re rescued or return to shore.
As large swells continue to batter the shores of New South Wales, surf lifesavers have advised beachgoers to keep clear of the dangerous swells.
Rips are the number one hazard on the country’s coast – they are difficult to detect and can quickly charge direction, shape, as well as location.
The only way to entirely avoid a rip is to swim between the patrolled areas, Surf Lifesaving New South Wales said.
Anyone who is struggling in the strong pull of a rip is urged to ‘Relax, Raise and Rescue’ – referring to raising your hand to signal for help.
Surf lifesaver Andrew Reid, who helped save the swimmer, told Daily Mail Australia the woman was extremely lucky, with a number of factors contributing to her rescue.
‘I had just walked in at 6.55am and a fellow lifeguard turned up because we start at 7am,’ he said.
‘We were actually just looking out and checking the conditions to see how we would set up the beach and a massive set rolled in and I I actually joked I wouldn’t want to be out in that today.’
It was at this moment that the struggling swimmer was noticed in the surf.
‘I started running down and saw she was in a precarious spot copping 10-foot sets, she looked tiny and all I could think was how did she get out there?’
Mr Reid said as he made his way towards the rocks other lifeguards were making a beeline for the swimmer.
‘The most direct route was the rocks but as I got closer she was further away,’ he said.
One of the other lifeguards, Troy Stewart, used the rip to get to the swimmer, which Mr Reid said proved to be the quicker route.
The powerful images show the ordeal from beginning to end as the female swimmer clearly begins to struggle in the rugged surf at Bronte Beach in Sydney’s east on Thursday morning
The astonishing images show Mr Stewart reaching the swimmer right as she begins to sink under the surface of the water.
‘I’ve seen a lot of people drown and I can say I think she was going under for the last time,’ Mr Reid said.
‘But then Troy got to her and pulled her up, it was amazing to see.’
The swimmer is dwarfed by the swell as it continues to roll in and batter her while she tries to get the attention of the lifeguards
Mr Reid said the swimmer was screaming and in quite a bad way as his colleague got her above the waterline.
Another lifeguard, Anthony Carroll, was at the clubhouse participating in a Pilates class when he raced to the rescue, and he even made a separate rescue on his way out.
‘A guy had actually jumped from the pool and tried to help but then he ended up getting into trouble too,’ Mr Reid said.
As Mr Carroll made his way out he noticed the second rescue attempt going on, found the first man, rescued him and then raced to the struggling swimmer.
A series of dramatic pictures show the moment a woman was just moments from death after being being swallowed up by a huge swell battering the New South Wales coast
‘She is a very lucky lady,’ Mr Reid said. ‘She had two of the country’s best surf swimmers at the beach this morning, Troy Stewart and Wally Eggleton.’
Both men are decorated surf swimmers.
Mr Reid said each lifeguard took a different route to ensure at least one of them was able to reach the woman in time.
‘In her defence she probably swims there every day but the ocean is a treacherous thing,’ Reid said.
Luckily he gets to her in time and is able to keep her head above water until a third lifeguard arrives with a paddle board
Once the swimmer was safe on dry land, Mr Reid said he was worried she still had salt water in her lungs, which would need to be dealt with at a hospital.
‘It’s known as secondary drowning,’ Reid said.
‘People actually inhale salt water when they drown and if there is any left in the lungs they could actually drown in their sleep, so you need to go to the hospital to get it cleared.’
Thankfully the lifeguards were just starting their shift when the incident happened at 7am
He said the woman was extremely grateful once she had been rescued.
‘She expressed so much gratitude’, he said.
‘I carried her up the beach and she was saying ‘thank you so much’. I believe she truly thought she was going to die out there.
Once they reach the shore the sheer exhaustion of fighting a wild sea is obvious as the woman collapses under her own weight while being caught by lifeguards and witnesses
‘She gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.’
Mr Reid was humble about the role he and his colleagues played in the rescue despite their heroics.
‘I’m a very small cog in that wheel today but great effort gets great results,’ he said.
He also praised the whole surf community of Bronte.
As the woman is held up it looks like she is taking in a deep breath while trying to regain her composure