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Luke Remmers, a Phuket surfer with a recipe for survival at Surin

Phuket Surfer Riding High at Surin: Photo Special

Sunday, July 26, 2009
Photo Album Above

SURIN is being steadily transformed into an upmarket beachside club. Being sophisticated, though, doesn't necessarily make it safe.

There are those who also rate Surin's original attraction, the water, fairly highly, too.

One of those is American Luke Remmers, who with his wife Poy has just created Surf House, a genuine alternative hangout among the shorefront restaurants and bars.

There are some neat clothes for sale hanging inside but mostly it's about the outdoors, with plans to extend the surf lessons to an adventure park including skateboarding, kiting, biking and other fun.

Mexican food is likely to be part of the mix, too. ''I love it,'' Luke said.

At this time of the year, on just about any day, Surin beach will contain surfers on boards, catching waves. That's a good sign because wherever there are surfers, the water is generally safer.

It's part of Phuket's changing culture as more people learn to swim then to make the most of the pleasure that comes with being able to enjoy the water.

Having spent 17 years as a fireman and paramedic in California before moving to Thailand, the 41-year-old surfer brings a great deal of essential expertise to Surin.

For decades, Ian ''Diver'' Dick, who runs a bar just along from Surf House, was the man who had to pull people out of the surf when they got into trouble.

Now, in the event that the newly created lifeguard team is not around, people tend to look for Luke or one of his instructors.

Like most Phuket beaches, Surin has had its share of tragedy this year, with the death of a young Thai girl in the water.

''The girl's drowning shocked the whole beach, the whole community,'' Luke said. But he believes changes are on the way.

Along with giving his support and time to the Clean Up Phuket campaign, Luke hopes improved safety comes with community effort.

''We can push, but we have to know when to step back a little,'' he said. ''Now that the local authorities and the resorts are fully involved, it should become easier.''

Flags are being placed along the beach each day to show people where it's safe to swim, and where it's not. There is also a triangular riptide warning sign that tells where not to go.

Because the seabed along the beach is constantly being reworked by waves, the safe places and the dangerous ones are forever changing, too.

Luke's expert guide to what happens at Surin includes excellent advice as to how to avoid getting caught in a rip, as well as how to survive one.

''The first part of Summer season every year, we get heavy storms, So we're getting the sand pulled all over the place, creating super riptides.

''In the morning it could look like a kiddy pool and come 2pm or 3pm, there's a rip there that's so strong,it's like the Colorado River, coming in from two directions and going out.

''Every time the seasonal weather starts up, this is going to happen on every single beach, even on some of the smaller beaches that are protected.

''And it lasts as long as the storms do, so there's really no sure way, other than to have a lifeguard point out the safe areas.

''A lifeguards will know the bad areas. They usually look like the calm areas. It's only smooth because it's deep and the water is pulling out.

''People often choose these spots to swim because there are no waves.''

The new flags and the signs, he says, should help: ''At least you're taking out some of the unknown.''

In the event that a swimmer does get caught in a riptide, Luke's advice is simple. Do nothing. Let yourself go.

''The current is just going out and you could float in this current as easily as you could float in a swimming pool.

''It's just the panic that makes people lose their breath and then they sink. As soon as they start to wiggle their arms and legs, they sink.

''When this happens, it's best to stay calm. If I am involved in a rescue, I usually say 'Stop.'

''Don't try to swim, don't try to go anywhere, just stay there, relax. I don't care if we have to float out into the ocean. By the time they calm down, they realise everything is ok.

''Usually I say 'Come this way' and usually within 20 or 30 seconds, we're standing safely on a sand bar.

''Becaue people try to fight it, they drown.''

What Phuket needs, Luke believes, is more rescue jetskis equipped with safety boards at the back.

''A rescuer can see easily what's happening in the water, grab one, two or three people, and be back on the shore quick,'' he said.

Usually the speed with which cpr is effectively administered dictates whether a person survives, which is why more training is essential.

Luke's main mission, though, is to play Pied Piper and win children away from playstations into the surf and other healthy activities.

From what we've seen, it looks as though he is winning.

Surf House, Tel: 085 880 7954 E: lukeremmers@yahoo.com

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Jet ski rental operators should be required to provide rescue services as part of their operating license.

Posted by The other Philip on July 27, 2009 07:27

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Ever wondered why it is called a Rip Tide or Rip Current .. .. .. Rest In Peace.

Posted by Graham on July 27, 2009 21:03


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