WA Day hero: Surf livesaver Soraya Lee, 19, ready to dive in and help those in need at our beaches

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Steve ButlerThe West Australian
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For Soraya Lee surf lifesaving is in the family.
Camera IconFor Soraya Lee surf lifesaving is in the family. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

The moment Soraya Lee pulls on her red-and-yellow kit, she locks into the surf lifesaving duty that has become iconic on WA’s beaches.

The bubbly 19-year-old is typical of the type of people who make the State tick from the grassroots up — the local heroes whom The West Australian will feature daily in the lead-up to WA Day next Monday.

“Everyone knows the red-and-yellow and everyone knows the surf lifesavers and what we do for the community,” Soraya said.

“So when you put it on, you’re representing WA and you get a big sense of community. It’s such a big part of the Australian culture, especially here in WA and our beaches are so beautiful, so the fact that we can be down here all the time is really great.”

Surf life saver Soraya Lee in action.
Camera IconSurf life saver Soraya Lee in action. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Lee not only volunteers for beach patrols, but also works as a lifeguard for Surf Life Saving WA and competes in it as a sport. She said surf lifesaving was bred into her family’s DNA. Her mum, Mandy, was a member at the Mullaloo club since before her teens and her father Steve was formerly involved in surf lifesaving in Geraldton before moving to the city.

Her younger brothers, Mitch and Brodie, are part of the Mullaloo club and she said being part of one of the State’s most trusted brands helped build her confidence during the formative part of her life.

“It’s basically in our blood ... I’ve been at Mullaloo since I was born and we’ve basically carried it through our years,” she said.

“We’ve never not been at the beach and never not done surf club. It’s always been a massive passion in our family and even with our grandparents, the beach is kind of our home and that won’t change.

It’s always been a massive passion in our family and even with our grandparents, the beach is kind of our home and that won’t change

“Just having people in the community put their trust in you to be able to help them, save their lives and keep them safe at the beach, it gives you a lot of confidence in your own ability and that’s something that’s big for me.

“People come up to you during your patrol and say, ‘Thank you for your service, we feel so much better here on the beach when you’re working’. That’s quite rewarding and makes you feel like you’re actually doing something for the community in giving back.

“People see us as a safety net. It’s always a nice feeling when you know people feel more assured when you’re here.”

Soraya Lee and her brother Brodie.
Camera IconSoraya Lee and her brother Brodie. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Soraya has not had the call of duty yet for a “full-on rescue”. But she vividly recalled the sound and sight of a woman who had a nasty encounter with a stingray.

“She was working as a teacher doing vac-swim and we thought she’d been stung by a cobbler,” she recalled.

“We took her up on the beach and did first aid and gave her the green whistle (pain-killer) and it turned out it was actually a stingray. It had stung the bottom of her foot and it was pretty bad ... she was in a world of pain and it felt good we could be there for her.”

Soraya said WA Day was an important annual day of celebration for her family.

“WA Day means a lot because my family has been here for generations and it’s important to us that we can celebrate our home,” she said.

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