Port Campbell surfers praised for rescuing Russell Bierke

Professional surfer Russell Bierke may not have lived to tell his tale of survival without the aid of Port Campbell surfers.

Local surfers were instrumental in rescuing Bierke and rushing him to shore on a jetski at Port Campbell on Wednesday.

Bierke, 19, from Ulladulla in New South Wales, was surfing at two mile break on Wednesday, when a knock to his face left him unconscious and under water for about 45 seconds.

Alive: Moyne Shire councillor and Port Fairy surfer Jordan Lockett with professional surfer Russell Bierke who almost drowned in Port Campbell. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Alive: Moyne Shire councillor and Port Fairy surfer Jordan Lockett with professional surfer Russell Bierke who almost drowned in Port Campbell. Picture: Rob Gunstone

It was local surfer Will Couch’s jetski, driven by Port Campbell’s James Bourke, which rescued Bierke. 

Bierke’s mate Ben Serrano put him on the jetski and world champion surfer Kelly Slater accompanied the unconscious surfer to shore. He was taken by ambulance to the Warrnambool Base Hospital.

Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club president Scott McKenzie said “without the jetski it could have ended up being a very different situation” and commended the actions of Couch and Bourke.

“He’s a professional surfer who’s obviously surfed in bigger conditions before,” Mr McKenzie said. 

Mr McKenzie said several factors contributed to Bierke’s rescue, such as the jetski being there, oxygen being available at the surf club and administered by Moyne Shire councillor Jordan Lockett.

An off duty paramedic on the beach and a quick response from ambulance staff also played their part.

Bierke said on Thursday without the jetski it would have been a different outcome.

“It was definitely good to have a safety crew there because it’s a long paddle. It’s over one and a half ks. It was a long way and there were lots of currents.” 

Kelly Slater told Cr Lockett Bierke’s friends wouldn’t have had time to get him into shore.

“I personally don’t know if he would have survived if it wasn’t for the jet ski because the bloke was blue, even with getting rushed in on the jetski,” he said.

Hospital intensive care unit manager Tina Johnstone said any more time underwater and Bierke would have died.

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