A Crazy Story...

Ok, I’ve been wanting to share this one with you guys for awhile now, but I was away at the folks house for the past few days and just nabbed myself a free moment. Here goes…

Weekend before last, a couple buddies and I got a late start on what was supposed to be a dawn patrol down here in SD. We tromped on down to a “hike-to” spot that we frequently surf, stoked because there was a little bit of swell in the water and not a lot of folks out - even though it was already 8am on a Saturday. We actually ran into Swaylock’s own Lee V on our way out to the spot, thereby getting a chance to check out one of Lee’s cool “edge boards”. Anyway, we get out there and have one HELL of a fun session. It’s like chest high, mildly offshore, and just the three of us out. It’s even one of the guys BIRTHDAY, if you can believe it. A couple of guys walk by on the beach in front of us, stop and check it out, but then continue on to the next spot down to surf by themseleves - fantastic.

After about three hours, we paddle in, pretty noodled out. We look south and see the two guys, they’re older cats, but ripping pretty good nonetheless on THEIR little peak. Cool. We decide to start the hike back to the car.

Now, what you have to understand here is that this spot is down at the bottom of some relatively formidable cliffs, and there’s only a couple spots where you can access the beach easily. We get down the beach about halfway to the trail access point, and come to a spot where you gotta paddle around a point when it is high tide in order to continue down the beach (where we saw Lee on our way out). We see a wave breaking right here, onto the beach, where usually usually it’s flat water you just need to dutifully paddle aroung to get home. We simultaneously get the same idea, and next thing you know we’re riding high-tide beachbreak, hooting as we jump off our boards in nearly dry sand. Pretty kooky, yet fun as hell.

Meanwhile, the two older dudes from the down the beach catch up to us just as we decide to call it quits (for the second time), and start paddling around the point. On the way, I see yet another little peak on the “access” side of the point, so I paddle over to it thinking “aww, just one more”. Everybody else strokes for shore. As I’m lining up for what will be my last wave of the day (I promise), I see everybody on the beach: my buddies plus the two older dudes, standing there shootin’ the breeze. I paddle in, get a little shot ride, hop off, then turn and paddle toward shore. I can hear a noise so I look up toward the beach and see something I’ve never seen before… and never wanna see again:

My buddies are SCREAMING AT ME. They are waving their arms like madmen and screaming at the top of their lungs, “GET IN HERE - RIGHT NOW!” So I’m thinking “what the…” Then I notice that one of the old guys is crouched in the sand, at the high tide line, holding his buddy’s head out of the foam. Even from this distance I can see that the guy down in the sand is not moving. At all. In fact, he’s got the rag-doll appearance of a dead man.

I try and paddle as fast as I can, but it still takes what seems like forever to hit the beach. When I do, I toss my board to the side and run to the older guys. “What happened?”

The conscious guy replies, “I don’t know, we were just walking along and he fell down like a rock. Now he’s not breathing.”

I look at my buddy who’s helping hold the victims’ head and he says, “and I don’t think he’s got a pulse.” I check - sure enough, no pulse.

I announce that we need to start CPR, and that we need to pull him up the beach toward the cliffs as far as possible. Even as I say this a wave of foamy seawater crashes right into us, some of it going into the unconscious guy’s mouth. We pull him up the beach, get him into position, and just then another surfer runs up. “What’s happening?” he askes, “I’m a lifeguard.”

“Good. I’m actually a PA, and this guy has no breathing and no pulse,” I reply, “but I think he went down less than a minute ago. Let’s do Tandem CPR.”

The lifeguard and I begin CPR. I’m doing compressions, he’s doing breathing. I look up on the cliff above and see my girlfriend standing with a cell phone waving at us, she’s out of earshot but mouthing the numbers “911”. Un-freaking-believable. (Turns out she rode her bike down to film us surfing - something she NEVER does). Just then a relatively big wave slams us, more water everywhere, actually now feeling the backwash PULL US DOWN THE BEACH. Great. My friends spring into action, though, and soon they’ve made a surfboard dam. It works pretty well to shield us from the tidal push while we work.

On it goes. We work on our guy for OVER TWENTY MINUTES. At only two points during this whole period do we have even a brief flicker of a pulse. The coast guard arrives - via boat. They hit the scene and assess our guy. He needs oxygen and defibrillation, so they hook him up. They shock him once, twice, three times.

We get a pulse. We get breaths. Agonal breaths, still, we get breaths.

We check the monitor and see a good heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure (after the cuff is put on his arm). Un-freakin-believable. Three minutes later, our guy is flying out underneath a coastguard chopper, somewhat stabilized.

Any of you with medical experience will be able to relate to the impossibility of this situation. In all my training, I’ve never seen a guy dead for so long come back. Even in a hospital, with the best equipment at your disposal. You just simply don’t do CPR for twenty minutes and have people come back. But this guy did.

So lucky. Lucky we surfed that dumb little beachbreak, lucky he had not one but two medics around when he went down (heart attack, by the way). Lucky there were surfers around with the audacity to try and keep the rising tide at bay with their boards. Lucky my girlfriend came down to film us at a relatively distant pointbreak, WITH her cell phone on her. Lucky she remembered the name of Newbreak and South Ab to direct the Coast Guard. So lucky.

So, last I heard, our guy was doing alright. According to privacy laws, it is difficult to find out. If anybody down here in SD knows more, give me a PM. I’d kinda like to hear the end of this story myself.


wow man, you got some serious karma comin your way bro. The dude really had someone lookin out for him. What a awesome story. Everyone lives happily ever after huh? keep up the good work man.

Stay Stoked- Caleb

Good on ya mate. As a long time ICU nurse and surfer - former lifeguard - I’ve seen more than my share of misery and death. It’s nice to see something hopeful like this. I copied your story and sent it on to a mate of mine that trains lifeguards in medical emergencies. Sometimes it really does make a difference.


Msacht -

well done!!! Your story brought tears to my eyes. Because of some quick thinking and the foresight to get yourself trained that guy has another chance. I’ve been a lifeguard since I was 16 and have been a ski patroller for about 6 years - you are right, people just don’t come back after being down for 20 minutes. But it does give credence to the fact that you never stop til someone more qualified arrives or you’re too tired to continue.

Anyways - nice Karma bank deposit you got goin.

Nice job Matt…I know exactly where you’re talking about.

awesome job Matt!!i have dealt with helping a guy who cranked his neck in shallow water(turns out he came fractions of an inch from checking out all together, but is now doing fine)my good friend has had seizures on two different occassions while surfing-when he was actually up on his board ridin’ the waves.both times he went down and washed ashore-both times he arrived DOA-both times he survived and is still able to surf,etc.seems like these guys have some kind of special relationship with the man upstairs…

Fantastic story and great job Matt! CPR in the field requires the difficult decision of putting the victim’s needs ahead of your own fear of disease (i.e. - mouth to mouth? Are you kidding?!) Your selfless action deserves a medal. I hope the guy makes it out of the hospital and at least gets a chance to thank you in person.

Anybody interested can sign up at Red Cross or American Heart Association and get CPR training. You never know when you might use it.

well done.the story should show everybody how importend it is to train CPR and all the other first aid stuff. As a student of Medical University i know many cases humans come back without any braindamage even after 30 min and in one case unbelivible 75min. I think and also we learned to go on with CPR till a doctor, ambulance, etc. is arrived. It could be your life that´s brought back


First off, nice job taking control of the situation. Then kudos for knowing CPR (this in itself reflects what a charitable, unselfish individual you are). Also on the CPR note: Yes, twenty minutes is a long time for the survivor - but as well for administrator of CPR - that’s an exausting period of time to perform. Last, your girlfriend obviously has a head on her shoulders too.

You’re good, responsible people. Hats off to you, and to those that assisted you.



Inspriational story! I hope the guy has a complete recovery. I’ve been stuck in that corner many times at high tide, but I’m not sure too many people here know how violent those high tide whackers get. That was a hell of a job by the whole crew but especially you two. Was the lifeguard a short haired older guy with a mustache and a Pavel quad fish? Hope to see you a your buddies out there more often…


Thanks for the kudos guys, I thought you’d like to hear about this one. I forgot to to mention what John M. and others remembered - CPR is good, solid stuff to have in your bag of tricks. Not often that you get to use training that actually WORKS (except stuff you learn on Swaylocks). I’d recommend a local Red Cross class to anyone. They’re cheap, short (usually only half a day commitment), and available anywhere in the country.

Lee- the lifeguard is a young guy (probably in his early 20’s) named Matt (weird, eh?) who lives right there on the cliffs (literally, he lives above Garbage/Subs, I think). He deserves as much or more credit than I do. There is NO WAY that I could have done single rescuer CPR for that long, plus, a couple of Matt’s buddies helped with the surfboard “breakwater”. Without that, we’d have been doing CPR underwater.