Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When This Rip Struck a Rescue was only a light Schwich away...

(Bradd Schwichtenberg, kickin' it in Florida; photo courtesy of Bradd)

"County Recurrent"
is once again pleased to present yet another epic LACo Recurrent rescue, this time right in front of Central Section HQ, as SMS Tower 16, back in the 1980's. This time, it is LACo Recurrent, Bradd Schwichtenberg, who is telling the story of that day fateful day when the Big Vacuum Cleaner out to sea began hoovering out to sea...

"I was working Santa Monica Tower 16 on a sunny day right in front of the Santa Monica Lifeguard Headquarters, just south of the Santa Monica pier. It was getting near the middle of the day, waves were medium size, but the bottom was chewed up, rips were beginning to pull. I became more and more nervous, finally I called HQ “where is my late man” “he is on a workout and will be there soon", the voice on the other end assured me. No sooner had I set down the phone when a massive rip cut loose right in front of my tower. I flipped my phone, grabbed my can, ran down my ramp, across the berm and into the water. I yelled at a couple of people heading into the spot to swim “Danger, large rip, move down the beach 400 yards, get out of the water, now”. As I got into knee-deep water I began to high step it. I saw a man frantically waving for me who was in waist deep water “help, help, help” he screamed in a panic. You’re ok, walk in, don’t try to swim, walk, in” I shouted over the roar of the surf. I had my eye on someone further out that looked like he was in big trouble. I flipped my can free, put the sash over my shoulder, and began to swim through the waves at full speed towards the victim. In a couple of minutes I reached him, exhausted, he immediately grabbed onto the can. This one would not have made it I thought.

(Photo show SMS Tower 16 in background, circa Winter 2009, with new Dept.
Ford Escape Hybrid Rescue Vehicle in foreground; Photo by Will Maguire)

Most rips I had encountered were mild enough - that I could swim a victim back to shore straight through the rip or certainly at an angle parallel to shore. No matter how hard I swam, parallel to shore, we could not get out of the rip. After about 5 minutes, my backup guard showed up. The victim was now on two cans being swum out by two guards, parallel to shore. Surely we could get him out together I thought. This was not the case. No matter how hard we both swam, we could not get out. We swam, and we swam, then we rested, then we swam some more. I suppose eventually we would have made it, but this rip was relentless. Finally, we were relieved to see Baywatch Santa Monica pull up. Get in the skipper yelled as the boat swung around. The deck hand hoisted the victim aboard. We climbed in over the transom after him, exhausted.

We rested for a few minutes, while the skipper motored to another stretch of beach out of the rip. With the skill that only comes from years of experience, he gingerly backed the boat through the surf line in a lull between sets. We jumped off and easily swam the victim to shore while he punched it through the oncoming surf. Walking back to my tower I reflected on the rescue. As the song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”; in this case a couple of hundred horsepower from Baywatch Santa Monica didn’t hurt either."

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Thanks Bradd ! Well done.

(Photo shows Bradd, in close-up, circa 2009)

"Bradd was in the LACO rookie school of 1976 which he recalls included the likes of Less Wulk Barkley, Mike Newman, Ron Pearlman, Tom Katsouleas and Tony Whitmore. He has been on schedule in Venice and Manhattan Beach and worked the beach through 1994. Since his days on the beach, Bradd for many years has been a civil engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to being responsible all for coastal, navigation, and ecosystem restoration studies for the state of Florida, he is on the Corps National Urban Search and Rescue team. He lives with this wife and family in Florida. Bradd grew up in Pacific Palisades where he swam for many years with the Palisades YMCA age group swim team. He later swam at Pali High for Coach Dave Anderson and for Johnny Joseph at SMC. At Pali, Bradd swam with such future LACo lifeguards as Eric Shargo, Eric Moore, Devon Clark, Mike Newman, the undersigned, Les Wulk Barkley, and this is just to name a few. At SMC, on Bradd's team were even more teammates who also became LACo Recurrents and included Arthur Verge, Bill Bischoff, Bruce Stahl, Roy Salter, Jeff Anderson, Terry Hearst, Mike Broneau, Kieran Graner, Tom Katsouleas, Mike Moses..."

Until next time...

Will Maguire
"County Recurrent" News

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