Man almost washed out to sea trying to take photos of beach erosion

·Environment Editor
·4-min read

Harrowing footage shows the moment a NSW man cheated death as he walked along a storm hit beach.

Onlookers can be heard gasping as Wamberal man, Paul McCloskey, is brutally pummelled by waves.

While his daughter manages to scramble onto nearby rocks, Mr McCloskey struggles to evaded the ocean’s savage grip.

Split screen. Distant shots. Left - Paul McCloskey and his daughter walk along the beach. Right - The pair are swamped by water
Paul McCloskey was walking along the beach at Wamberal when a wave pulled him under the water. Source: Yahoo News Australia

Trying desperately to clamber to safety, he slips and disappears for several seconds under the water.

Those watching fear the worst.

When the tide falls back, Mr McCloskey struggles to stand.

He has suffered painful abrasions to his arm and leg.

Mr McCloskey struggles to stand at the edge of the beach. A rocky cliff is nearby.
Mr McCloskey struggles to stand after being swamped by waves. Source: Yahoo News Australia

Another wave batters him as he desperately scrambles again for the cliff face.

When he makes it onto the rocks, he take a moment to bury his face in his hands. He’s safe.

‘It then got too much’: Man lucky to be alive

After scaling the cliff, Ms McCloskey cut through a beach front property and reached the road.

Dripping wet and catching his breath, he told Yahoo News Australia that he felt lucky to be alive.

Paul McCloskey looks to camera. He is soaked through.
Paul McCloskey (pictured) agreed that he's lucky to be alive. Source: Yahoo News Australia

He had been surveying damage to the area after recent storms eroded two and a half metres of sand from his property.

What was supposed to be an enjoyable walk at low tide on his birthday had been more of an “adventure” than he’d intended.

“Being low tide, we still got stuck at a couple of points and caught on retaining wall metal,” he said.

“But it then got too much and we had to head uphill and even that got too much.”

Mr McCloskey said that despite being soaked through his waterproof Samsung phone had survived.

As turned to walk back home, he said the ordeal had been “exciting”.

Surf Lifesavers swamped with calls for help this week

As wild weather continues to batter the state, Surf Lifesaving NSW say they have been inundated by calls for assistance, particularly in the Sydney area.

On Wednesday alone, lifesavers and the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter responded to surfers in distress at both Malabar and Maroubra, and a kayaker got themselves into trouble in Cronulla.

Surf Lifesaving director of lifesaving, NSW Joel Wiseman said that while most of rescues occurred because beachgoers ignored hazardous surf warnings, those walking on the beach also need to be careful.

Close up of Paul McCloskey's hand and leg showing abrasions.
Mr McCloskey was lucky to have survived his ordeal with just scratches. Source: Yahoo News Australia

“There's a lot of coastal erosion that's occurred as a result of these hazardous conditions,” he said.

“With these swells and the waves that we've seen, they are unsuspecting to those who may be walking on the beach or who are on rock platforms.

“If a large surge approaches there's quite the potential for someone to be dragged into the wall because there's a lot of power Behind the water as it comes up.

“Where water is going to come in, it's also going to escape, so therefore flash rips occur.”

‘Remain calm’: Expert’s tips for those in trouble

Mr Wiseman said there are key steps beachgoers can take if they find themselves in trouble in the water.

“The first thing is to remain calm,” he said.

“A lot of drownings occur because people panic.”

“It's unfamiliar to people to be dragged out of their comfort zone, so they panic and then they exert all their energy.”

With many people wearing heavy clothes in winter, Mr Wiseman says it’s important to try and dump those clothes to make it easier to float.

He suggests people caught in a rip should try to attract the attention of surfers or people on the beach by raising their hands.

Surf lifesavers are trained not to fight rips, but instead to swim with them at a 45 degree angle, to reduce energy exertion.

Another option for swimmers caught in rips is to float on their backs, as the rip will eventually end.

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