12-year-old boy rescues man from drowning off Dubai beach

Australian Noah Offord was surfing near the Burj Al Arab when he saw the man struggling so he helped get him to shore using his board.
Noah Offord, 12, helped rescue a man in distress on Sunset beach in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Noah Offord, 12, helped rescue a man in distress on Sunset beach in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // A 12-year-old boy saved a man in his 40s from drowning while surfing off the coast of Dubai on Wednesday, according to his father.

Australian Noah Offord was surfing near the Burj Al Arab when he saw the man struggling and crying for help.

“There was so much whitewater around, I could barely see him,” the boy said.

“But I could hear him saying, ‘help me, help me’.”

Noah, a Year 8 pupil at Dubai English Speaking College, said the man was repeatedly going under and did not have much energy left to stay afloat.

“I paddled over and told him to stay calm,” he said. “I gave him my surfboard and told him to hang on tight.

“A big set of waves kept pounding us on the head and he was having trouble breathing.”

Noah managed to get the man, who did not give his name, safely to shore and he thanked Noah gratefully after the rescue.

Noah’s father, Jason Offord, said his son had been surfing since the age of two.

“We’ve been surfing this week and the waves have been big all week,” he said. “A lot of swimmers headed down to Sunset beach but, this time of year, there are a lot of hazards down there as the swirls come in and there are no lifeguards, so they tend to get out of their depth and they ask for help. It happens quite a lot.”

He said when his son was surfing, there was no one else around. “He had his GoPro [camera] in front of his surfboard,” he said. “His camera recorded the whole thing and it was amazing.”

Mr Offord, who has been surfing in Dubai for the past 10 years, said drownings and rescues were common at Sunset beach during the winter because the north-west Shamal winds blow from the sea across the Gulf, instead of the desert. “People often get out of their depth because there are lots of deep holes around the sandbanks,” he said.

“Surfboard riders aren’t allowed in the flags and this also stops swimmers from being injured.”

He said the lack of permanent lifeguards and no flag system made it dangerous for swimmers. “It’s been happening for many years when swimmers have been into trouble,” he said. “Noah was just at the right place at the right time.

“When you get in a rip current, what happens is, when the rip takes you, it drags you out to sea, and most people fight the current and swim back into shore,” Mr Offord added.

“But the current is so strong that you don’t go anywhere, you get really tired, you panic, hyperventilate and that’s when people go under. So the best thing to do is to let it take you because, at some point, it stops. Then you can swim back in.”

He said he was very proud of his son’s efforts. “He’s only 12 but he’s been surfing from a young age,” he said. “It’s important that people realise that it is dangerous and there should be a few changes on that beach for people to avoid getting into trouble, like having a flag system to swim in the safe area and surfers can go in the other area, and having a lifeguard will help. There would definitely be less people drowning.”

Mr Offord said there was decent surf at least once a week at this time of year but that it could get dangerous, especially for those who could not swim.

“I saw four police, ambulance and rescue vehicles at Sunset beach on Thursday and I’m sure someone got into trouble because the surf rescue boats were combing the break and police were ordering swimmers from the sea,” he said.

“The surf is very deceptive. The waves might look small but the bigger sets can be quite powerful and the rips and currents can drag you out and under in a split second.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

Published: December 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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