Monday, April 25, 2011


("Rescue Fins". SMHQ, 04.25.2011 @0900 hrs. Photo by Will Maguire.)

This blog is devoted to Fins. Send us a fin story about a rescue where fins made a difference. Send us a photo and we will add it to this blog. The point is to have Fin!

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Until next time.....

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William Maguire said...

Just in from Buddy Bohn! Thanks Buddy for contributing to this Fin Blog!

"Got Fins? I got my first pair in 1957 by winning a write in contest by Kelloggs Corn Flakes, they were Churchill's. My Dad was a body surfer who had grown up on Venice beach and had Churchill's after he came home from WWII.

The evolution of swim fins is amazing in that they are so specialized now. There seems to be fins for every imaginable application. During my lifeguard career, the Churchill's were fazed out by Duck Feet and later Force and others.

Rescue work demands a fin that can be put on quickly, produces good torque and allows a fast turning radius, all the above fit that bill.

OK, enough on the background.I was working El Porto as a permanent guard during the winter month's in the late seventies. The surf had been building for days and "Tanker Island" was breaking. Very few surfers were making it out and those that did pretty much had a one wave session. About mid-morning I noticed a guy on a body board heading out in the 42nd street rip, hauling ass. I had a bad feeling and jumped in the unit at Rosecrans and headed towards this body boarder assessing his ability as I approached. The guy flew through the inside break, got to the middle or regular line up, but kept on going out to sea. I get on the PA and advise him to move out of
the rip into the line up. I look through the binoculars as this guy
finally turns around and I see what we've all seen many times, sheer
panic. I get back on the PA and tell him to stay were he is, I'm coming out for him.

I then get on the radio and call for back up and advise HQ of the situation. I grabbed the well worn Duck Feet from behind the seat and charged it, without a wet suit by the way. After a few minutes swimming as fast as I can using the rip and checking my lineups on shore I'm thinking my victim is close, wrong, he's continued to kick out to sea and the surf is so big I'd yet to spot him while flying over the tops of the swells.

Finally I can hear the guy screaming and soon I get a visual on him another 110 yards outside of me and I'm yelling at him to F____g stop kicking out to sea. I'm looking around for my marks and far down the beach the Manhattan Pier looks way inside of me and I can't even see the beach unit. I'm now sprinting for this guy in the outside flats, free
of the rip, in the trough of the outside sneaker sets. Well, you guessed it, here comes the cleanup set of all time and I'm swimming up the face of these things trying to settle this guy down, while it just stair steps bigger. Now on my final approach powering up this huge face that is starting to trow and my guy is just under the lip; I grab him in a scissor lock with my legs and tell him to hold his breath. We don't make it through the back of the wave, no, we get pitched over the falls into the trough and are driven deep. I rode my victim down and hit feet first with such force that my toes/feet were forced through the fins drain holes and the ankle straps were behind my knees with the blades in front of my knees. Somehow I held on to my victim for that initial bomb
and the many others that helped drive us toward shore. I just tried my best to stay in the white water and away from the rips, not wanting to re-cycle.

We finally crawled up the berm, me with Duck Feet still around my knees and my victim barfing up water and thanking God and me in that order.

The Call-Car from Hermosa showed up and I went for the hot shower to fight off the cold only to have my one knee swell up like a grapefruit. Sometime after that I had to get the torn cartilage removed; this was an experience that proved to me I could get injured on the job.

I know I'd never would have been able to make that rescue and many
others without fins. So remember to keep the fins close by when the surf
is pumping."

Aloha from Hawaii,

Buddy Bohn

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JohnRJ08 said...

Curious to know when this episode occurred. Was it around 1975. I recall that around that time we had a huge swell hit the South Bay. It was my day off and came down to del Rey with my camera to get some pictures. I was riding in the truck with Barry Nugent when he abruptly announced, "OK! You're working!" Unfortunately, that kept me from getting any more photos. It was the most harrowing day I ever spent on the beach. I didn't have my Churchills with me and I was going out through 15 foot pounders rescuing clowns who were wearing fins.

William Maguire said...

Here is another Fin contribution, this time from Jim Graham. Thanks Jim! Here goes:

"Hey Will:

In the summer of 1977, while working as a JG instructor at Avenue C in Redondo, our fellow lifeguard and surfboard shop owner Rick Stoner passed away, suddenly and sadly. The Headquarters Crew (Paul Matthies, Steve Wood, etc.) circulated a flyer to all County Headquarters announcing there would be a "memorial swim" for Rick from 8th Street in Hermosa to the Hermosa Pier (Rick's daily workout) beginning around 6:00 p.m. (This was a weekday and allowed anyone interested to make arrangements to be there after their work day ended). Now it was well documented that Rick, not a great swimmer, always swam with one Churchill fin on, so, needless to say, more than a hundred lifeguards, surfers and beach friends showed up at the 8th Street tower, most all of them with one fin to swim the short distance to the Pier. (It was one of the more memorable and inspired send-offs of a fellow waterman in my memory). After the swim, where most were able to say "goodbye" to Rick during that most private time, most everyone retired to the POOP DECK, owned at the time by Steve Wood and Steve Voorhees, for an evening of celebrating our good friends too short life.

Jim Graham (Retired)
Santa Monica (1959 - 1962)
L.A. County (1962 - 1984)

p.s. Paul Matthies may have a photo of the crowd on the beach toasting Rick with Champagne prior to the swim. It was super."