'We had no idea': Woman's near-death experience in Byron Bay

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·3-min read

A woman has detailed what she thought could have been her final moments alive after battling a giant rip in Byron Bay.

Chiara Longhi was in the water with a group of friends on Saturday around midday when a strong current suddenly began dragging them towards a wall of jagged rocks at the town’s infamous “bullsh**” break.

Despite all being relatively experienced surfers, none could break free from the rip and each thought they were going to die in it.

Ms Longhi, who moved to Australia three and a half years ago from Italy for work, said the group had earlier hired surfboards locally and had been assured their planned surf spot was safe.

It wasn’t long until they learned it was anything but, when they and about 15 others were rapidly taken from one side of Wategos Beach to the other, towards the rocky outskirts of The Pass.

The group ran into trouble after being dragged towards The Pass (pictured). Source: Google Maps
The group ran into trouble after being dragged towards The Pass (pictured). Source: Google Maps

“At one point I realised I was not going anywhere. I took my board and went against the rocks and was able to land. My friend did the same so we were safe, but the other three were having a very hard time,” Ms Longhi told Yahoo News Australia.

“It literally happened so fast.”

The commotion caught the attention of a lifeguard who jumped from the rocks and headed for the two girls, while Ms Longhi’s partner shouted for help.

She said he was stuck in a dire position amongst waves and rocks until eventually managing to pull himself to safety, escaping with just a few scratches.

One of her remaining friends was then rescued by a fellow surfer, who put her on his surfboard and paddled to safety, while the other couldn’t help but be dragged inside a cave.

“She was really at risk in there,” Ms Longhi said, reflecting on how distressed she was seeing her friends so helpless amongst the surf.

Eventually, she was rescued in a team effort by lifeguards, police and paramedics, who were able to pull her from the cave.

Chiara Longhi was with a group of friends when they became stuck in a huge rip on Saturday. Source: Supplied
Chiara Longhi was with a group of friends when they became stuck in a huge rip on Saturday. Source: Supplied

“We had no idea how dangerous this was, and it’s insane to think what we went through. If one thing went differently like how we hit the rocks, when support came, how we decided to act in a split of a second, there could have been a very different outcome,” Ms Longhi said.

“If we knew how dangerous that area was, we would have not got in.”

Since the ordeal, Ms Longhi and the others felt lucky to be alive and have expressed their gratitude in a local Facebook group to the “incredible locals” that played a role in the dramatic rescue.

“It was so beautiful to see their friends/family commenting they were very scared for us. And they were glad to know we were all safe,” she said.

Visiting surfers should be extra careful when entering a break they haven’t surfed at before, Ms Longhi suggested.

“I would encourage visitors and non visitors to pay extra caution, even if you are told it is safe. The ocean is so beautiful, but so so powerful.”

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