Pride of Australia Awards: Nominate your own Aussie hero
WHEN you are flailing in cyclonic seas and seconds away from being smashed on jagged rocks, it's not David Hasselhoff you need - it's this most humble of lifeguards.
James Cervi was off-duty and enjoying the waves at Tea Tree Bay at Noosa on February 18 when a mission called that only he had the confidence and skills to accomplish.
Stevi Everson had been on a jet ski with her father Charlie while filming her surfer brother Callum, 19, when they were hit by a freak wave.
Charlie made it to shore but Ms Everson, 24, was engulfed by the powerful conditions generated by passing Cyclone Gita.
James, a Sunshine Coast lifeguard, was aboard a nearby jet ski with a friend.
He quickly assessed the unfolding crisis, called the Coast Guard from a radio on the ski and plunged into the turbulent water to aid the stricken swimmer.
James, 26, kept the pair afloat for 20 minutes, drawing on his surf knowledge to find and negotiate a safe exit point among the rocks.
He is being nominated for a Pride of Australia award, an annual award by News Corp recognising everyday heroes in the community.
But he insists he was just doing his job - even though he was on a day off.
"It doesn't matter if you are on duty or off duty, if someone's life is at risk and you can help, you just have a crack,'' he told The Courier Mail.
"No-one else was jumping in and I knew I had to … and that if I didn't, there could be terrible consequences.
"Everything was going against us, it would have been dark soon, the conditions near the rocks were dangerous and Stevi was very fatigued, but I was confident we could get through it - and we did.''
James said he was stoked with his Pride of Australia nomination.
He said he had spoken to Stevi since and "had a good debrief'' and she was doing well.
Originally from the Sunshine Coast, Stevi now lives in Sydney.
She went to hospital as a precaution after ingesting water during the drama.
After the incident, she described herself as "incredibly grateful''.
"Without James's help, I likely would have died,'' she said.
Nominations open today, September 3, for Pride of Australia and will close on Sunday October 21.
PRIDE OF AUSTRALIA
- Pride of Australia is a News Corp initiative, in partnership with Australia Post and Seven News, to unearth and honour ordinary Australians who make an extraordinary contribution to our community.
- This is the 14th year of Pride of Australia, and more than 650 Australians have been honoured.
- Nominations open today and close on October 21.
- Nominate a hero at prideofaustralia.com.au