Battle in the surf
Mr Hutching, a former professional lifesaver, said safety was always his number one consideration when teaching people to surf.
Mr Hutching decided to conduct the surfboard riding lesson, despite the beach being closed due to unsafe conditions, off a sandbank 100 metres south of Lennox Head Surf Life Saving Club.
Some of the students were caught in a rip and were assisted from the water by two surf life-savers.
“The crew (students) did get swept out in a rip, but that happens all the time,” Mr Hutching said.
“Every now and then things happen. It’s the ocean.”
Two of the students let go of their boards and Mr Hutching said he was attempting to instruct them on how to get back on to their boards and out of trouble when surf life-savers responded.
Mr Hutching said it was important students learned to get out of trouble in the surf through their own experiences.
He said students were taught what to do when caught in a rip, but panicking was a common response.
Mojosurf managing director Nat Folkes, of Lennox Head, said conditions at the beach were not dangerous on the day of the lesson.
“It was a bit sweepy and there were a couple of rips,” Mr Folkes said.
“It wasn’t overly treacherous.”
Mr Folkes said the surf school conducted 50,000 lessons a year between Sydney and Byron Bay and had never had a fatality or serious injury.
“We spend an enormous amount of time and money training our staff in safety,” he said.
NSW life guard co-ordinator, Stephen Leahy, said the lifesavers who attended the incident did the right thing.
“We have an obligation to make sure the beach is safe,” he said.
Mr Leahy said one of the lifesavers who responded to the incident was one of the best in the region.
“If she made the call, then she was right to. I have complete trust in her judgment,” Mr Leahy said.
Mr Leahy said a number of students thanked the lifesavers for their help and said it was better to make the call to conduct a rescue than not because people’s lives were at stake.
A meeting will be called between surf school operators in Ballina, the life guards and Ballina Shire Council.
Mojosurf School provided The Northern Star with copies of their incident report and feedback forms from the students attending on the day, which showed they were happy with their experiences.