'It was the most awful day of my life'
THE hero mates of a young Ballina surfer will today receive Australian Bravery Awards after rescuing him from a shark attack at Lighthouse Beach on September 26, 2016.
Lennox Head teenager Thomas Harper and Jae Waters from Keith Hall, both then 16 years old, were surfing at Lighthouse Beach with friend Cooper Allen.
The three were enjoying the sunny weather, the first day of the school holidays. The next thing they knew they were paddling fiercely towards their friend as they saw his board lift up out of the water as a four metre Great White shark attacked.
The boys saw the shark lunging at their friend, grabbing his leg and the surfboard, and knocking him into the water.
Luckily , they saw the shark was temporarily tangled in the board's leg rope giving them time to grab one of Cooper's arms each and, placing him between their two surfboards, paddled towards the shore.
By this time the shark had managed to disentangle itself from the leg rope and began to pursue the boys at a close distance.
Despite the threat of the shark attacking again, the boys conveyed their injured friend to the shore where he was treated by emergency services before being taken to Lismore Base where he recovered from his injuries.
"We were out (in the surf) for about an hour and a half and then I saw Cooper getting thrashed around a little bit," Mr Waters said.
"I thought he was messing around and then I saw the shark."
He said instincts took over and he initially panicked before he realised Cooper needed his help.
Mr Harper also saw the "commotion in the water" where his friend was.
"We were about 10 metres away. We grabbed him and did the best we could to get him in," he said.
"Later on looking back it was pretty scary.
"It's pretty cool someone in the community nominated us (for the Bravery Medal). It's a big privilege to get that, we are pretty happy about that."
Cooper said he was sitting on his board when the shark "came out of who knows where and got (him)."
"It started swimming away with my board so I took my leg rope off and the boys got me.
"You do get worried sometimes when you're out there, and it doesn't go away but you get used to dealing with it," he said on being out in the water years later.
Cooper said he was "super happy and glad" his friends were getting recognised for their brave actions.
"They deserve it - they did a really good thing. You cant ask anyone to do that, but they did it."
It was a parent's worst nightmare Gina Waters said, but said she was "extremely proud" of the boys.
"It was the most awful day of my life. That feeling you get in your stomach."
Matt Harper said he was "very very proud of all of them".
"It's good to have kids that do something for someone else. I'm really proud Tom's my son because I think we need more of that good news instead of hearing all the other stories which aren't always as positive.
"I'm happy everyone came out of it really well, and I think they've recovered well from it and are stronger for it."
Australian Bravery Decorations Council commended Thomas Harper and Jae Waters saying: "By their actions, Mr Harper and Mr Waters displayed considerable bravery".
The Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, approved the awarding of the Australian Bravery Decorations, saying: "On behalf of all Australians, I thank them for their bravery. They are a source of courage, support and inspiration, and we are a stronger, safer and more caring nation because of them."
Since 1975, and including the awards announced today, there have been 1343 awards of the Bravery Medal.