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The surf trip that ended in tragedy

Zac Young and his three mates – Lindsay Isaac, Shayden Schrader and Kurt Gillan – were expecting a day of great waves and good times
Zac Young, who died of a heart attack after he was mauled by a shark last year.

What they didn’t expect was that by the end of the day, one of them would be dead. A Tiger shark, ranging south from its traditional tropical hunting grounds, rose from the depths of the sea at a surfing spot called The Well and attacked Zac as he waited top his body board, looking for the next big wave.

Despite the best efforts of Lindsay, Shayden and Kurt, Zac died from a heart attack on the beach while his friends sat in shock.

“I want everyone to know what a brave, wonderful set of mates these blokes are,” says Kevin Young, Zac’s father. “They did everything they possibly could to save his life, completely forgetting about their own safety, about the shark that might have been in the water. They held out their hands and they helped bring Zac in to shore. You couldn’t ask anyone to do more than they did that day. At its heart, it’s what Australian mateship is all about.”

Typically, the boys don’t see what they did as anything other than what was right in the circumstances. They eschew comments about bravery.

“We only did what we know that Zac would have done for us if the circumstances were different. He was our friend and he needed our help, as simple as that.”

Zac Young, says Kevin, will long be remembered by those who knew him. “Zac was always an easy going fun loving person,” says Kevin. “He had a wisdom that was truly amazing for someone so young.”

In many ways, Zac was a typical teenager. He grew up one of seven siblings in Port Macquarie where he discovered body-boarding, surfing and skate-boarding at an early age. By the time he was in his early teens he was good enough to enter competitions, and to do well.

“He was always up there in the comps,” recalls Kevin. “But then during the past two years, his priorities changed. He became committed to Christianity and his life changed.

Zac gave up competitive surfing and began to concentrate on his faith.

“But through that faith, he was led back to surfing,” explains his father. “He saw it as his mission to reach out to people through surfing and the water. He had an uncanny ability to connect with people in a natural, non-confronting and deep way, even people that didn’t share his point of view. That was one of his great strengths.”

Zac had plans to begin a chaplaincy certificate this year. He also planned to visit Afghanistan with his father as a Christian missionary. Kevin will now take that trip by himself.

“I miss him,” says Kevin. “I miss him every day. But I also know that he’s in a good place and that’s important.”

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