What started as a quick play on a Christmas present in the shallow waters of Coles Bay suddenly turned into a nightmare for NSW mother-and-son Narelle King and Dylan, 8.
On Boxing Day, Dylan sat on his new inflatable pterodactyl on Sandpiper Beach when he rapidly started to drift out towards deeper water, pushed by a combination of wind and current.
"He wanted to play on it so I blew it up for him, he was just mucking around on it. But then it happened so quickly, suddenly he was getting swept out by the river current," Ms King said.
"I took my jumper off, dived in and went after him. But he was just so fast, he got swept further and further, I couldn't get to him.
The approximate location of the beach where Dylan was swept away:
"I was quite far out when I realised I wasn't going to get him. It was just terrifying."
As Dylan drifted beyond the breaking waves, Ms King realised she had to get help rather than swim deeper and put them both at risk. She started screaming "help!" over and over, and got the attention of a nearby surfer.
He paddled over and told Ms King to swim back to shore for help while he took off after Dylan.
She managed to get the attention of people on the shore and the police were called, while a boat was quickly organised.
"One of the ladies stood with me with some towels. I was beside my myself with terror, shivering, it was just awful," Ms King said.
"I couldn't see my son. I could see the head of the pterodactyl but it was so far out."
A man grabbed his kayak and headed out to help drag the surfer and Dylan back to the shore.
"I could see him towing the surfer and the pterodactyl, but still couldn't see Dylan," Ms King said.
"They weren't getting very far. The current and the wind were so strong."
Cold and shaken, but unharmed as mother and son reunited
It was only when the kayaker reached the shore than Ms King could finally see that Dylan was alright, albeit a bit cold and shaken.
"He was mostly scared of a shark or sea creature coming. I was more worried about the sea," Ms King said.
Dylan told her that he was afraid of the first waves, but then started to encourage the waves to bring him back. It was a cold and windy day, meaning he quickly developed a chill as the surfer tried to reach him.
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A police officer piggy-backed him up the road where he was checked for any injuries.
"He was a bit shaken up, he's talked about it a lot for the next couple of days, just processing what happened," Ms King said. "It just felt like an eternity."
Now, a week later, Ms King wants to extend a heartfelt thanks to all who assisted in the rescue of Dylan - the surfer, kayaker, those who quickly brought their boats over, the police, and all on the shore who stood by her during the ordeal.
"To all the wonderful people on the beach that day who saved my precious boy, I will be forever grateful. You are true heroes," she said.
Inflatables and beaches don't go together: Surf Life Saving
Surf Life Saving Tasmania has reiterated its warning that inflatable toys should not be used at beaches.
Operations manager Boyd Griggs said their light design and bulk made them particularly dangerous for open water.
"Those inflatables are pull toys, they're not designed to go at the beach," he said.
"What happens is: they get caught by the wind because they get on top of the wind, so they can easily be blown straight out to sea.
"Don't take them to the beach."
SLST took part in about five rescues during the Christmas-New Year's period, including assisting kayakers in the South Esk and a boat taking on water at Gypsy Bay near Primrose Sands.
Fortunately, there have been no reports of swimmers being taken by rips or requiring assistance at beaches.