Fitzroy Surf Club

Five New Plymouth teens narrowly escaped drowning after being swept out to sea at Fitzroy Beach yesterday afternoon.

The group had been playing volleyball and decided on a change of pace so they jumped in the sea for a swim. Soon after entering the choppy windswept water, a strong rip took hold of them, pulling them out to sea and along the beach.

Only quick action by body boarders and surfers averted what the victims say could have been a very tragic day. One of the rescuers was self-employed builder Jason Buchanan. The 17-year-old had been body boarding with a friend when the group first got into trouble and was quick to get involved in their rescue.

"One girl asked me for my board so my mate Baxter took her in and I went out and helped the other four," he said.

Tom Jones, 17, said they had felt like their lives were in serious danger until Mr Buchanan arrived. "Thank God for that Jason guy. If he wasn't there ... well, it would have been much worse."

Emma Hayward, 16, said she had been swimming at Fitzroy for as long as she could remember and had never experienced anything like the rip that dragged the group out to sea. "We were just standing there up to our waist and then it came on so strong."

Surfer Johnny Mac, a lifeguard at New Plymouth's Aquatic Centre, had been watching the group from near the Fitzroy Surf Club. As soon as he realised what was happening he grabbed his longboard and went out to help along with two other surfers and the body boarders.

In the confusion of the rescues they believed there were still people in the sea even after they had seen everyone safely to the beach.

"The old heart went through the roof for a while there. We thought there were three other people out there so we stayed out looking for them. But you can't see much when you're out there," he said.

Sintra Pro 

The 2009 IBA Bodyboarding World Tour will have five Grand Slam events.

These premium stops will be held in Hawaii's Pipeline (17th-27th de February), Brasil (April), Australia's Shark Island (June), Portugal's Sintra Pro (26th-30th August) and Canary Islands' El Confital (December).

Each Grand Slam event will count 2000 points to the general rankings, as there will be other beaches where the bodyboarders will compete and get less points.

Moreover, the new 2009 IBA competition format will have a higher prize money purse for the Grand Slam stages.

Portugal will have three IBA events in 2009 - a Grand Slam competition in Sintra and two smaller stages in Peniche (9th-13th September) and Viana do Castelo (12th-16th August).

2009 IBA World Tour Grand Slam schedule:

Hawaii's Pipeline (17th-27th de February)
Brasil (April)
Australia's Shark Island (June)
Portugal's Sintra Pro (26th-30th August)
Canary Islands' El Confital (December)


Uri Valadão

The 2009 International Bodyboarding Association (IBA) World Tour will kick off on the 17th February.

The 'Turbo Bodyboards Pipe Pro 2009' event - to be held in Pipeline, Hawaii - will be the first stage of the IBA's new "Grand Slam" event format.

Uri Valadão and Neymara Carvalho will start defending the 2008 Bodyboarding World Tour title.

The full 2009 IBA Tour schedule will be unveiled later, always here in