Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Memorial Day 1983" by Dave Estey, OLS, Ret.

Photo above: SMS Tower 24 "back in the day" as it was when Dave worked there on Memorial Day 1983. Photo by Steven J. Koeppe. Used here with his permission.

Photo above: Dave Estey, Nov. 2007 at SMHQ, just a few short months before his retirement. Photo by Will Maguire. Used here with his permission.

The recently retired Dave Estey, in a special guest appearance herein, recalls for us the sheer danger of inshore holes in combination with lateral currents and rip currents, in yet another Memorial Day on Santa Monica South. This time in 1983 after the infamous March storms that year tore into the Santa Monica Bay and wreaking havoc on the local piers and chewing up the sand leaving inshore holes and contouring of the bottom that would spell D-A-N-G-E-R come Spring and summer. So without any further adieu:

"Most Rescues in a Day
Memorial Day 1983
SMS T-24
(Copyright 2008 Dave Estey. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission).

The conditions were classic spring with a lot of sand having been moved around recently creating big holes, trenches and bars. The weather was hot for the holiday and the beach was crowded early. Many of the towers were still back in their winter positions and almost useless as lifeguarding platforms. The tide was high late morning and ebbing throughout the busiest part of the afternoon. There was a large hole about fifteen feet across just south of my tower and as the tide started to ebb a strong rip current fed into the hole surrounded by knee to waist deep water. Doing my best to keep people out of the hole and the feeder current I spent several hours knee deep preventing many rescues but wound up with twenty five rescues including a couple of triples, a quad, a quint, and a six pack all without back up. The easiest rescues were made by positioning myself in shallow water inshore of the hole and just picking the victims off before the rip current could pull them into the hole. I was picking up a double on the edge of the hole when a body boarder with another non swimmer clinging to the board got sucked off their feet toward the hole. I managed to have the body boarder get hold of the can with the original two victims and turned to drag them to shore. With me standing in waist deep water facing shore and the four victims, two on the can and two on the body board, floating over the hole I saw two more kids being sucked toward the hole from inshore. I positioned myself so that I could grab the right arm of one and the left arm of the other as they got sucked by. Realizing that I was losing my footing and starting to get pulled into the hole I scanned the beach for back up. There was not a guard on the beach anywhere on all of SMS. There were blitzes in progress at 18, 20, 22, and 26 and the only cans I could find were all involved in other rescues; I was on my own. Gaining about a half step toward shore with every wave I finally managed to wrestle the crowd into shallow water where the rip was not pulling and start releasing them. Before all of them were standing firmly on the bottom two more bathers were starting the process over losing their feet in the feeder, here we go again!"

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