Geoff Stewart: Hips 'n' Bits (The Shark Attack Jingle)
When you’re running with a pack of kiddie surf fiends, there’s usually one member of the bunch – someone a bit more reserved and a lot less idiotic – who’s got their shit together. In the case of our li'l collective of Anglesea grubs, that someone was Geoff Stewart. When we finished school in the mid-eighties and dispersed to bar jobs, surfing up north, or disreputable gap years abroad, Geoff bailed to Alaska and worked on fishing boats in the North Pacific. On graduating medicine at Monash Uni in the early nineties, Geoff moved to the Northern Territory and spent the better part of three decades working in Aboriginal primary care, mostly in remote communities, (which makes his mates’ careers in media and what-have-you feel, well, a touch indulgent.)
Still in the Aboriginal Health game, Geoff and his partner Mary recently relocated to the Mid-North Coast and started hoofing it into the quieter stretches of coast to get uncrowded waves. With humpback whale numbers ever increasing, so too, it seems, are their opportunistic whitey-bitey stalkers, and so the spectre of shark attacks in those quiet walk-in zones is real. It’s something Geoff put his mind to.
I spoke with Geoff last year, but it took this year’s convoy of Humpbacks to start huffing and puffing their way up the coast to prompt me to get my shit together and transcribe our yak.
SWELLNET: You surf a few out-of-the-way spots on the Mid North Coast. Tell us about how this kit came about and what you did?
GEOFF STEWART: There was a very unfortunate incident a few years ago – a fatal shark attack just north of here. I surf in more isolated spots generally, out of phone reception, not much in the way of resources around in case anything happens, and was thinking about what you could put in place that's more than just a tourniquet. Just having something more available for the local crew really. I made up a little box out of ply, painted it red, put a white cross on it. Sourced a hemorrhage control kit from a local medical supplier. There’s an emergency blanket, a set of shears for cutting a wettie off, a hemorrhage control bandage and a tourniquet, and it's all cryovaced into a kit which just sits up inside the box. I screwed the box onto the back of a national park sign, then worded up the local crew about what's in there, and how to use it.
Did you go through any official channels make this happen?
I did talk to council about it and got passed around a bit – is it council or is it National Parks? As it turned out, it just fell between the cracks, and it was extremely unclear who was ultimately responsible, so I just decided to go ahead and do it regardless.
Can you describe how this kit fits in to the spectrum of shark bite severity?
The way I think about it is that, at one end, you've got the incidents which are unfortunately clearly fatal right from the outset – injuries that aren't consistent with life. Obviously you're not gonna make any impact on those. At the other end, you've got the minor sorts of injuries that people will survive regardless. And in the middle, you've got this really important group who have life-threatening injuries, but with the right, timely interventions, you can actually change that outcome. Basically, it’s about stopping people bleeding out on the beach. So that’s the idea: having some tools onsite and ready to go in a swift manner.
There’s something that isn’t in the kits that’s potentially just as important, hey, tell us about the 'Hips ‘n’ Bits' approach.
About the same time I was putting this kit together, I came across a doctor from Canberra, Nicholas Taylor, who'd done some research on hemorrhage control for shark attacks and he'd come up a method of controlling blood loss from leg injuries. He calls it 'Hips ‘n’ Bits'.
And the idea is that, even without a tourniquet or any special sort of medical equipment, you can make a really effective difference by controlling blood loss related specifically to leg injuries.
If you've got a big leg injury and somebody's bleeding, the idea is to put direct pressure on the femoral artery as it comes out of the pelvis toward the front of the hip. By using direct pressure, which can be a fist, an elbow or a knee, you can compress the artery against the pelvis and stop the bleeding.
The term 'Hips ‘n’ Bits' was coined to make the process easy to remember, and it accurately describes the location that requires pressure: Locate the bony part at the front of your hip, you take that point, and halfway between there and your balls, along the groin crease, just push down really, really hard.. And if you’re still getting bleeding, then push harder.
Good to know mate. Back to the kits, I guess there’s potential for something like these to be rolled out across remote coastal surf zones Australia wide.
I’ve heard of a few initiatives recently to fund surf clubs and board riders clubs to have these sorts of kits available. But think that in some ways that sort of misses the point in that these places have already got resources: there's somebody on the beach, there's already other measures in place. This is more about having resources strategically placed at more isolated beaches that surfers are prone to using
Could future iterations of the kit include other useful bells and whistles?
This is very much the lo-fi, homemade version, you could probably upscale, more purpose built. Potentially look at having some form of communication or emergency beacon, because the last thing you wanna be doing in a critical situation is running up a hill to try to get a phone signal.
Onya Geoff. Beautiful work fella.
// Interview by GRA MURDOCH