Top honour for daring surf rescue

Nathan Rheinberger of Yamba has been awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct for his rescue of two teenagers at Turners Beach in 2009.
Nathan Rheinberger of Yamba has been awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct for his rescue of two teenagers at Turners Beach in 2009. Adam Hourigan

YAMBA'S Nathan Rheinberger has been awarded an Australian Bravery Decoration, announced today by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

The 20-year-old hero was just 16 when he rescued two female students off Turners Beach, Yamba, in February 2009; his actions gaining him a Commendation for Brave Conduct.

Recalling the rescue, Mr Rheinberger said at the time he was heading in from a surf when he spotted two swimmers caught in a rip.

"I didn't really think about it, I just paddled out," Mr Rheinberger told The Daily Examiner afterwards.

With no previous life- saving experience, the young surfer said he just followed his instincts.

When he reached the swimmers he asked them who was feeling the worse, thinking he would help one ashore and then return for the other.

"But they both looked at me at the same time and I knew they were both in trouble," he said.

"One was as white as a ghost and the other was going under the water.

"I wasn't sure what to do, but I knew I couldn't leave one of them behind because they were both in shock."

Fighting the crashing waves and strong current, Nathan managed to pull one girl onto his surfboard.

He then held onto the back of the board and supported the other girl under his free arm.

Out of breath and still in the rip, Nathan's leg began to cramp but he pushed through the pain and kept manoeuvring them across the rip, then towards the beach.

Finally in shallow water Nathan's friend, Tim Horan, helped to pull the girls ashore.

Three-and-a-half years later, Mr Rheinberger said he was both shocked and stoked to receive a letter from Ms Bryce notifying him of the award.

"It came out of the blue. I definitely was not expecting it," he said, adding he had no idea who nominated him.

"I'm pretty happy with it though, it's nice to receive the recognition."

Now employed part-time as a bartender at Yamba Bowling Club, Mr Rheinberger still enjoys surfing and said he and a mate had pulled a couple of young boys out from the same rip.

"They were both probably about six years old and were just beginning to get into trouble," he said.

Mr Rheinberger said he thought more signs around the rock wall might help provide better warning to swimmers about the dangerous rip, used by surfers to access the back break.

"People need to be aware that the rip runs alongside the rocks and they can easily get dragged out."

This year marks the 37th anniversary of the Australian honours system, which since its establishment has grown in prestige to represent the highest level of recognition that can be accorded for attainment of outstanding achievement and service in national life.

Ms Bryce said today's announcement recognised the heroic actions of those among us who had placed the safety and lives of others before their own.

"We are privileged to have such role models in our society and it is an honour to be able to recognise their acts of selfless bravery and thank them publicly for their brave actions," Ms Bryce said.

There are four levels of bravery awards to recognise the actions of individuals and a separate group award (established in 1990) to recognise acts of bravery by a number of persons working in concert.

These awards are the Cross of Valour, the Star of Courage, the Bravery Medal, the Commendation for Brave Conduct, and the Group Bravery Citation.

Anyone may nominate any other person for the award of the Australian Bravery Decoration. Nominations are considered by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council.

For more information about Australian Bravery Awards see

Topics:  bravery award rescue surf rescue

WATCH: Men welcomed to women's group

Bev Hall, Diane Walsh, Denise Maycock and Margaret Grayson at the QCWA Scarf and High Tea day. Photo Sophie Lester / Warwick Daily News

Major change for nation's largest women's group

Rooster needed: too many eggs

ROOSTER HUNT:  Rhans Campbell and Alex Haynes were at the Pig and Calf Sale in search of a rooster.

THEY'VE already got themselves quite the menagerie at home.

Deadly Dreamworld ride deemed 'not fit for service'

Thunder River Rapids ride was deemed "not fit for service"

Local Partners

Australia Day Award nominations now open

ALL those who know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the Warwick community is encouraged to nominate them for an Australia Day Award.

WATCH: NASA space station is live, see the view from above

In this picture taken from NASA's International Space Station from April 2015, the SpaceX Dragon is captured with the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 robotic arm before its installation to the Harmony module.

See the world from a new perspective as space station passes Rocky

Events you need to be at this week...

Some Australian sevens rugby squad members will be in Warwick this weekend.

It won't be all rodeo in Warwick this weekend

He's here for the Melbourne Cup of campdrafting

David Thorn from Cootamundra on Oh How Foxy.

David Thorn is here to make the most of the Warwick Rodeo.

Blake Lively hosts 40th party for Ryan Reynolds

Blake Lively throws husband Ryan Reynold's 40th birthday bash

What's on the big screen this week

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the movie Doctor Strange.

MARVEL'S latest superhero Doctor Strange makes his debut.

Trump 'worked like hell' to pick up John Travolta's wife

John Travolta and Kelly Preston

Trump wrote comments in tribute to Travolta's son Jett

RECAP: The Bachelorette S2E11 - top three battle it out

The Bachelorette finalists, from left, Matty Johnson, Lee Elliott and Jake Ellis.

It's Matty, Lee or Jake. Who will Georgia choose?

Jake left broken-hearted by Bachelorette break-up

Jake Ellis is one of the final three bachelors on The Bachelorette.

GEORGIA chooses Lee and Matty J as her final two suitors.

MOVIE REVIEW: Doctor Strange is out there in a good way

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the movie Doctor Strange.

MARVEL'S new superhero takes viewers along on his mind trip.

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June