Three Kiama Surf Life Savers have received the nation's top honour, after they rescued a rock fisher swept to sea in dangerous surf.
Rhys Dawson, Bradley Dawson and Toby Streamer came to the aid of 58-year-old rock fisher, Jimmy Huang, from Campbelltown, on Sunday August 4, 2019.
On Monday, December 2, the rescuers were honoured at Parliament House with a National Rescue medal.
Mr Huang was fishing at Little Blowhole when his rod became jammed. He lost his footing attempting to free the rod and fell into the water.
He was fully-clothed and was wearing a lifejacket and fishing cleats. Conditions were hazardous at the time of the incident, with large swells hitting the NSW coast.
Bradley Dawson said he and Toby Streamer had been involved in surf life saving for as long as he could remember. Both men have been part of many rescues - not all successful. When they received the call to help Mr Huang, they did not hesitate.
"I didn't think the outcome would be favourable [for Mr Huang]," Mr Dawson said.
"I knew how treacherous the swell was that day."
They raced to get an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) on the water, but when they arrived at Little Blowhole, they couldn't see Mr Huang.
"We were told he'd drifted further around, so we kept going," Mr Streamer said.
"It's challenging in swell like that, because they could be very close, but you're in a lull and you can't see them. Eventually, we spotted him about 400 metres off the East Beach Headland."
Mr Dawson said they felt "a huge sigh of relief" when they found Mr Huang, helped him into the IRB, and took him in to East Beach.
"He was very happy to see us," Mr Dawson said.
They credited Mr Huang wearing the right gear, including his life jacket, for the success of the rescue.
"It didn't just keep him afloat, it made it easier to spot him," Mr Streamer said.
Despite wearing an approved lifejacket, he was exhausted after being in the water for so long. Paramedics treated Mr Huang for mild hypothermia.
A police officer who also attended the incident sustained injuries, including a broken leg, while attempting to locate the fisherman on the rock platform.
The men later received the Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) Rescue of the Month award, which made them eligible for National Rescue of the Month. They are also finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence.