Alan Jordan (left) walks down St Clair Beach on Saturday
with surf life-savers Sandy McDowell (centre) and Ian
Graham, nearly 50 years after the pair tried unsuccessfully
to save Mr Jordan's brother, Les Jordan, from a shark
attack. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Smiles lit up the faces of Ian Graham and Sandy McDowell
as they watched the powerful waves roll in at St Clair Beach.
The two men were basking in the sunshine on a bright but
breezy Saturday morning, and revelling in the sight of young
competitors charging into the surf for the start of the
annual White Island Race.
It was a far cry from events at the beach nearly 50 years
ago, when the waves were stained red by the blood of
19-year-old surf lifesaver Les Jordan after he was fatally
mauled by a shark on February 5, 1964.
Messrs Graham and McDowell - surfers and fellow St Clair surf
life-savers at the time - tried desperately, but
unsuccessfully, to save Mr Jordan, carrying him to shore on
their surfboards as two sharks followed the blood trail in.
The two rescuers, who both earned the George Medal for
bravery, were back at the beach on Saturday with Mr Jordan's
brother, Alan, to present a new trophy made of old St Clair
beach pile timber to the winner of the White Island surfboard
Mr Graham (75), of Christchurch, told the Otago Daily
Times the reunion brought back memories, and was ''a bit
nostalgic'', but his mind did not often return to the morning
of the shark attack.
He had dealt with those memories years ago and enjoyed
returning to the beach every time he was in Dunedin.
''I'm very at peace with the event and the place, but there's
still the thought that 'gosh, if only we were able to do
''I don't think you ever lose that, but it's nice to be here
and see all the people enjoying themselves,'' he said.
Mr McDowell (68), a New Zealander who has called Australia
home for 28 years, was on just his second trip back to the
beach since the shark attack.
His memories of the beach, and his years as a surf life-saver
at the St Clair club, remained vivid, as did those of the
That included paddling out from the beach on his board to
help Mr Graham carry Mr Jordan's battered body to shore, and
trying desperately to avoid one of the sharks as it circled
under his surfboard.
''We weren't trying to save Les. We were trying to save
ourselves,'' he said.
''I haven't forgotten it. But I don't dwell on it.''
The publicity that followed was ''a bit of a bother'', but Mr
McDowell completed university studies in Dunedin before
moving to Peru, and then on to Australia.
The dramatic rescue attempt was ''a bit scary'', but only one
of the adventures in his life since, he said.
The two men had stayed in touch with each other, and Alan
Jordan, periodically over the years since the attack.
However, Mr Jordan (65) said their reunion this weekend was
the first time he had seen his brother's rescuers since the
attack. Nearly 50 years on, their efforts remained ''just
incredible'', he said.
''They were brave. They didn't even think of themselves at
all. They were lifeguards, and that's what lifeguards do -
look after each other,'' he said.