They didn’t see it coming

Sophie Dunn and Matt Walsh have known each other for about a year and are good mates. Photo Anne Keen
Sophie Dunn and Matt Walsh have known each other for about a year and are good mates. Photo Anne Keen

“I honestly thought I was about to die.”

Gloucester’s Sophie Dunn talks about her experience after being hit by a  large wave at Black Head Beach on Saturday, February 17.

“If Matt didn’t pull me out I’d probably be dead.”

The pair went for a swim in the natural rock pools on the southern side of Razorback rock past the cave at Black Head beach. It’s not near the patrolled beach and is tucked around the corner, out of view from the main beach.

Neither were aware of the hazardous surf warning that had been declared over that weekend with swells in excess of three metres and significantly larger sets predicted for the region as Cyclone Gita moved into the Tasman Sea.

They were swimming in a pool a fair way above the water line at low tide in a location that Sophie and her family have been going to for years.

After about two hours, they decided to get out and as they were starting to exit the pool, Matt heard a muffled yell and looked up as a white wall of water hit both of them.

They were knocked head first into a pool below.

Sophie doesn’t remember much about what happened next, other than the fact that she couldn’t find her way to the top of the water.

Matt remembers everything. “I saw a flash of white water, then I felt the rocks,” he said.

The look on her face and the blood from her arm is an image I will never forget.

Matt Walsh

“As I was being spun around in the water, I bumped into Sophie. I opened my eyes but all I saw was white.

“I took a quick breath and went under.”

He explained how he bumped into her again but wasn’t able to grab her. He kept searching until he found her foot.

“I don’t how I found her, but when I got her foot I pulled her upright and out of the water.”

He grabbed onto a rock to stop them from being pulled out into the ocean.

“We were about a third of the way out toward the ocean by the time I grabbed the rock.”

The waves continued to hit them.

“I had my back to the ocean, just kept talking to Sophie and keeping her head above the water.”

Both were banged up on the rocks causing cuts and bruising.

“The look on her face and the blood from her arm is an image I will never forget,” Matt said.

The natural pools Sophie and Matt were swimming in, Sophie's injuries on her leg and arm from hitting the rock. Photo supplied

The natural pools Sophie and Matt were swimming in, Sophie's injuries on her leg and arm from hitting the rock. Photo supplied

He held onto the rock and Sophie for about 10 minutes with bystanders telling them when the waves where coming until there was a big enough break for the two to get out.

Sophie’s dad, Rob Dunn believes Matt is a hero.

“Luckily they didn’t hit their heads. It could have been a different story,” Rob said.

“I don’t think Sophie would be here today, if Matt hadn’t of grabbed her.”

Sophie’s parents posted about the incident on Facebook to let people know what an amazing thing Matt did. 

Matt’s a little overwhelmed with the responses likening him to a hero.

“I didn’t think much about it at the time.” Matt explained. “Just looking after her as always.”

Neither have had much experience with the ocean, both having grown up in the bush.

Sophie said she had always been scared of waves and just recently she was feeling more confident around them, but at the rock pool, they didn’t think the waves were an issue.

Black Head surf lifesaver, Mick Cross said that quite a few people get hurt on the rocks around the natural pools in that area.

He warns people looking to swim there to check the surf conditions before going.

“Don’t go there at times of large swell or high tide,” he said.

“The combination of the two is very dangerous.”

“Even in low tide, a large swell can be unpredictable and come with large sets of waves.”

As for Sophie and Matt, neither will be heading back to the beach any time soon.