On Saturday 18 February around 5:20pm Stevi Everson was riding on the back of a jet ski with her father, filming her brother surfing off Granite Bay in Noosa. Without warning, a freak wave stood up knocking them both off the craft. The after effects of ‘Cyclone Gita’ had caused the swell to increase and were reported to be over two metres.
“After filming one wave, we went to ride the jet ski back out past the break however a rogue wave had started cresting earlier than expected and landed the ski vertically,” Stevi said.
Stevi’s father tried desperately to recover the jet ski but was unable to restart it before a second wave hit. This wave washed both Stevi and her father against the rocky alcove, and pushed Stevi’s brother 400m down the beach.
Stevi explained, “My Dad spent approximately five minutes worrying for his own life as he was victim to the swell pulling in the rocky cove beside me. Eventually he was swept up onto the rocks. My brother had run the 400 metres (back) down the beach, and they both stood and tried to frantically help however they could from the rocks”.
Off-duty Australian Lifeguard Service lifeguard James Cervi was passing on his own private jet ski with a friend, when he saw the Eversons come off their jet ski. He immediately called the coastguard and lifesaver rescue helicopter.
James was dropped off the jet ski and swam in to the rocky alcove to help Stevi. He tried to get her out of the alcove, but the power of the waves was too great. For 20 minutes, James held onto Stevi and assisted her to dive under the constant incoming waves.
James kept his composure as the waves crashed in, assuring Stevi they would be ok. He gave instructions to her, letting her know when they needed to dive under a wave and to be careful of the stricken jet ski also getting washed around the alcove.
“With the peaking swell and the high tide coming in, there were a few things working against us,” James said.
“There was a moment when it got pretty scary, the [jet]ski was getting thrown towards us and I felt it brush my shoulder.
“The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes, but it didn’t feel like it was going to end.”
Eventually, a large wave pushed the pair up and onto the rocks. As James pushed from the water, three additional off duty lifeguards joined Stevi’s father and brother to help pull Stevi to safety. They then helped James out of the water.
Without James’ courage and disregard for his own safety, the outcome could have been fatal.
We advise all aquatic users to check the conditions before participating in coastal activities. Visit bom.gov.au for regular forecasts, warnings, monitoring, and advice.