"IF I wasn't there with my surfboard that day, two people would be dead."
Bernard McCaffery, of East Ballina, grew up on the beaches of the North Coast and knows for a fact that if he hadn't been at Tallow Beach at Byron Bay on the afternoon of November 27, 2008, two tourists would not be alive today.
Today he will be honoured for his efforts with a commendation for brave conduct, announced by Governor General Quentin Bryce.
It might have been five years ago, but Bernard remembers the day of the rescue clearly.
"I was keen for a surf that day so I got my board and headed to the beach," he said.
"But as soon as I got on the sand people started running up to me saying, 'you've got a board, we need you to help'.
"A woman had gotten caught in a rip and a man had gone out to try to save her, but he got into trouble as well.
"So I ran down to the water and paddled out.
"It was a really strong rip so it didn't take me long.
"The woman was blue.
"If I had been much longer getting to her, she would have been dead.
"I put her on my board and got her back to shore and then I went back and got the guy.
"It took forever to get them both back on the beach; maybe an hour.
"The man was really struggling and I had to keep telling him to calm down."
Bernard said the entire stretch of beach from Tallow to Broken Head was renowned for its strong currents and rips.
He said people who were unfamiliar with the beach should be careful.
Despite receiving a commendation for bravery, he doesn't feel like a hero.
"I just did what anyone should do," he said.
"I have been surfing around here since I was a kid and I just went out there by instinct."
The others in Bernard's group to receive the Group Bravery Citation were Edward Adcock, Zachary Brooker, Christopher Jarvis and Ross Woodthorpe Anderson.
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