John Searle should be dead.

Broken neck, smashed bones. floating face down in the ocean

Rescued - in front of his wife and kids. By strangers.

Summer at Scarborough

The famous surf's a bit choppy...

But that's the way the nippers like it.

Up the beach...Senior members of the Scarborough club are honing their skills

People like 42 year old Dad Graham Snook. A life saver since he was in primary school.

Still, even Graham has to prove himself ... part of a squad doing a drill to requalify.

They practice so when it happens for real...they're ready. Like now.

John Searle's a 49 year old dad from Mindarie. The beach was one of the reasons he emigrated from England. Today it's almost killed him.

John was dumped while surfing.

His son and his mate found him face down in the water. Lifeguard Gus Lawson got the call

Gus got John out. Gus is only 18

Brought to shore - the agony is etched on John's face He's been given a strong pain killer but it's not enough - lifesavers work to stabilise him a sheet blocking the beating sun

You've gotta get the oxy viva, you've gotta get the rescue, just gotta treat it as a major incident

John's daughter Francesca in yellow and his wife Deborah in the blue can only watch on helplessly. Ambulance officers assess John, they can't rule out a heart attack, but there are other very serious injuries. Lifesaver Terry Colby....

It looks as though he's got a neck fracture, we're treating him as a spinal, we've put a stiff brace around his neck to secure that, we're giving him nocaine for the pain

But getting John to hospital is a risky operation in itself - one false move and he may not walk again.

In the air, the 7 News chopper covers the terrifying incident. On the ground John's frightened family hold their breath

His arms folded to keep him motionless; it takes 6 men to get John onto the back of a ute - then into an ambulance

1,2,3 lift

And this is what John did.. four cracked vertebrae, including one in his neck.. This brace keeps his bones in place so his neck bones don't re-injure his spinal column.

I'm very lucky that no 1 I didn't drown in the water cos I was knocked out laying down in the water and number 2 that I'm ok now and just recovering

It's been a terrible trauma for my family - more than me really - he says in a full body brace, laugh, no this is on the mend and it won't be long now and hopefully I'll be back to work - you're a lucky man, very lucky yes, very lucky

Our guys are fantastic. the pressure they're put under on our busy days is enormous

Scarborough Surf Lifesaving Club President Glen Ross says so many people, like John, are alive because of his club members. It's split second stuff.

They are in a lot of cases, people are at a stage where they're in trouble and they're going under and they can't get back to shore, so our guys do a great job in bringing them back

Back on the beach, another dumping, this time a tourist who's landed face first on a his surf board.

And what's your name? David

David Krause is a 22 year old German, on a 6 month break in Australia. Some holiday.

Not feeling dizzy, bit of a sore nose, yeah you've had a decent crack

In his other life, lifesaver David Winch is an industrial relations lawyer. But there won't be any billable hours today - he volunteers his time as a lifesaver.

And he doesn't need a degree to tell him tourist David's nose is broken.

You can see through there, you can see there's a big dent there and it's spread out here and it's a nice break - that's gotta hurt - doesn't look good eh - no going to the pub tonight - yeah, you'll be right, they'll fix you up mate,

Building sandcastles on the sand with his little brother has proven a health hazard for 8 year old Ryan Taylor. He's been stung.

We're just going to wash it off - just water mate, won't hurt

Mum's dried his tears and a lollypop's doing its magic. 15 year old lifesaver Hannah O'Neill gives it a saline wash - and sympathy.

Thank you - that's ok

Keeping a watchful eye is part of the lifesavers' brief - preventing incidents from becoming accidents.

Like here, a surfer is straying into the swimming area.

The best way to do it is to turn him a bit, get him to move

Club Captain David Thomson and 17 year old Matthew Bannister head out for a chat..

Hey buddy, just keep out of the flags

Every time you go in someone complains to us, so if you just keep out of it, it makes our life a bit easier

And teaching youngsters how to handle situations is part of the role senior members of the club relish.

Junior coach Austin Roberts...

There are events for runners, events for swimmers, events for board paddlers and as they progress and get older they move onto skis and boats and things like that

It's just so important cos our lifestyle is on the beach

Elise Irwin trains young girls.

You bring your kids down, you want them to be safe in the water, you want them to know what to do if they get into trouble, you want them to be able to recognise danger and you want them to be able to help other people if they need to

And how old are all of you? 11. You're 11 and you could probably save someone's life? yeah

Lifesavers in WA performed 655 rescues last beach season. On a busy day, there can be over 100 incidents, 100 near misses, people just like John Searle.

It's dangerous and exhausting work. Most of it done for little more than a thank you.

Real community service.

As long as they're alive and they walk home and they go home at night, that's a good one