Hero teen who rescued four grown men from a dangerous rip when he was 14 – including a swimmer who nearly DRAGGED him under and another who was ‘moments from drowning’ – is given incredible reward for his bravery

  • Australian teenager Clayton Schilg recognised for act of bravery this week 
  • Almost three years ago, aged just 14, he pulled four men from the ocean
  • The group were being dragged out by a rip but Clayton paddled out to them 

A teenager who was just 14-years-old when he single-handedly saved four grown men from drowning in a rip has been awarded one of Australia’s highest honours.

Clayton Schilg was presented with the Bravery Medal this week – awarded to Australians for ‘courageous acts in hazardous circumstances where they selflessly put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives of others’.

On January 9, 2020, Clayton and a friend were at Wooyung Beach in northern NSW, about halfway between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, when at around 2pm they noticed a group of people 50m from shore.

Clayton Schilg (pictured) has been awarded one of Australia’s highest bravery medals after saving four men from the ocean in 2020 when he was just 14

Hero teenager Clayton Schilg (holding towel) helps a man, 28, who nearly drowned in the surf. The man later confessed he was 'within a minute' of going under

Hero teenager Clayton Schilg (holding towel) helps a man, 28, who nearly drowned in the surf. The man later confessed he was ‘within a minute’ of going under 

The group was calling for help as they were being dragged out by a rip and the teenager immediately grabbed a battered foam surfboard left on the beach and paddled out to them while his friend phoned Clayton’s parents.

At the time the then 14-year-old was a nipper, or young trainee lifesaver, at Tweed Heads on the southern Gold Coast. 

He first reached two women who confirmed they were safe and able to make it to shore on their own and then kept paddling out to four men, understood to be in their 20s.

One man was repeatedly going under the water and Clayton was able to pull him onto the board – but the other three were being swept out in different directions by the current.

Quick-thinking Clayton, concerned he could not reach all of them, yelled at them to swim towards him.

The three did, but one of the men then frantically grabbed at him and pulled him down into the water. He was able to get free and told two of them to grab the board and the third to grab his waist.

With the fourth man on top of the board Clayton paddled to shore, dropping one of the men on a sandbank on his way in.

Clayton and his mate Harry were at Wooyung Beach, on the New South Wales north coast

Clayton and his mate Harry were at Wooyung Beach, on the New South Wales north coast

Clayton (pictured at the time of the rescue), was a nipper at the Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Club at the time he saved four swimmers by grabbing an old emergency board off the beach and charging into the surf

Clayton (pictured at the time of the rescue), was a nipper at the Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Club at the time he saved four swimmers by grabbing an old emergency board off the beach and charging into the surf

The emergency surfboard Clayton plucked off the beach

The emergency surfboard Clayton plucked off the beach

As he reached the shore other beachgoers came to help, with the man on top of the board placed into a recovery position and Clayton and others, including a nurse staying at the nearby caravan park, monitoring him until paramedics arrived. 

The man, holidaymaker Ben Jeffrey, 28, from Portarlington, Victoria recovered and later told Clayton he was ‘within a minute of giving up’ when the teenager saved him.

Mr Jeffrey’s girlfriend, Christine Campbell, said at the time that Clayton was ‘the hero’ of the day.

‘He took control of the situation. He saved Ben’s life. He took in four of them. I’ve never actually encountered a young man that took charge like that.

‘He needs an award, he needs a medal.’

Police and paramedics help are seen helping Ben Jeffrey, 28, after the near-catastrophe

Police and paramedics help are seen helping Ben Jeffrey, 28, after the near-catastrophe

WHAT IS THE AUSTRALIAN BRAVERY MEDAL?

A bravery decoration awarded to Australians on behalf of the Monarchy of Australia.

It is awarded for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances. Recipients selflessly put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives or property of others.

The award was created in February 1975.

The Bravery Medal is bronze in colour and is the third highest bravery medal Australian civilians can receive, the other two being the Star of Courage (silver) and the Cross of Valour (gold).

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