Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Q&A With Kip Jerger", by Adam Sandler

(Photo above shows Kip, June 2009 at Section Chief Scott Davey's retirement party. Photo by Will Maguire.)

(Photo above shows Media Consultant - Paddler - Beach Lifeguard - and "County Recurrent" Freelance Reporter, Adam Sandler, at right. Photo courtesy of Adam.)

Recently, "County Recurrent" commissioned a Q&A session with surf guru - LACo Veteran Recurrent, Kip Jerger. Adam Sandler, one of our team freelance reporters, agreed to take on this challenge.

In this Q&A session, Adam goes mano y mano with LACo's Zen Master - Wave Guru - LACo Recurrent Living Legend, Kip Jerger. Have a seat and enjoy!


"Q&A WITH KIP JERGER", by Adam Sandler

When I mentioned to veteran Recurrent Lifeguard Kip Jerger that County Recurrent wanted to do a Q&A with him, I suggested we could do the interview while we went for a paddle off El Porto in his home-town turf of Manhattan Beach. “Or how about going for swim in the ocean,” he suggested. When I pointed out that it might be difficult to have a conversation while our faces were mostly submerged, Kip grinned and said “Oh yea. You’re right.” So we compromised and met one morning for egg whites and oatmeal at the world-famous Local Yolk in MB.

You were one of the first recipients awarded the Medal of Valor for a rescue you made. Please tell us about it.

Kip: It was at White Point.

(White Point, San Pedro, Calif; Palos Verdes Peninsula, shown in the 2 photographs above and the photo below. These Three Photos by & Copyright Adam Sandler 2011. Used here with permission.)

There was a hurricane off of Mexico and the waves were 10-plus feet with 20 foot faces crashing on the rocks. I was the relief guard for John Matesich, who spent the day keeping the fisherman off the rocks and warning them with a megaphone when the sets came in. It was a day when the time between sets was long; like 15-20 minutes. John left, so as a set started forming on the outside, I grabbed the megaphone and warned the fishermen to move off the rocks. But there was one guy who ran down to the rocks to undo his fishing line that was snagged. He was in sort of a blind spot below the rocks so I couldn’t see him. Then I heard a female scream from the south end of the beach. It was the loudest scream I’ve ever heard. I grabbed the binos and spotted a man wearing a plaid flannel shirt and with a huge afro (it was 1979) floating face down. I called the Cabrillo HQ for back up, climbed off the tower and hit the jetty running barefoot across the jagged and slippery rocks. I strapped on the can, and dove in. I grabbed the guy by the hair, pulled his face out of the water and rolled him over. The guy (whose name I learned later was Wallace) was at least 230 pounds, and he was foaming at the mouth. Seconds after I made contact, the first wave of a huge set broke on us. I lost my grip and we both crashed into the rocks. I grabbed him again, and lost him three more times during the set. Each time a wave hit, we were sent crashing into the rocks. Another wave hit, and I got pinned in an opening in the rocks. My right leg was caught up to the hip. I tried to wiggle it free, but I was hit by another wave. I was gasping for air and on the verge of drowning. I finally got free and scrambled up the rocks.

(Per Kip, in the photo above: "If you were to go out to the end of the natural jetty and work back to the very first out cropping a quarter of the back from the tip, that's where it happened.")

When the water receded, I looked down and saw Wallace’s plaid sleeve through a hole in the rocks. He was trapped in an underwater cave. I got behind a rock formation so when the next set hit it protected me from the crashing wave. I ducked down into the water, grabbed his arm and held him in place as the next set came in. Although, I was protected by the elevated rock, from the onlookers perspective on the beach it looked like I had been hit by a wave and was pinned under the rocks. “The lifeguard is drowning!” I remember hearing someone scream from behind me. When the set stopped, I pushed Wallace’s arm back down into the hole and jumped into the water. I pulled him out of the front of the cave by grabbing one of his leather boots. As we were momentarily bobbing, I could feel another set was on its way and I knew this was probably my last opportunity to get Wallace out of the water and up on the rocks. His buddy -- who had been nearby and later told me he did not know how to swim and that’s why he didn’t help when Wallace first fell in – helped me pull Wallace onto the rocks. Just as we did, another wave hit the three of us. The buddy, who was probably 6’6” and 240 pounds, was pushed by the force of the wave along the rocks and, as a result, received three deep lacerations on his butt. When we got Wallace to a safe spot, I started CPR. As I did, I also noticed that my knee, thigh and hip had scrapes and cuts that were bleeding.

My back up, Kenny Atkins, arrived and took over CPR, and I began to treat Wallace’s numerous body lacerations. As I did this, I went into shock. LA City Fire arrived and Wallace and I were both transported to the hospital. After four hours at the hospital – still wearing my guard trunks and wrapped in an itchy horsehair blanket -- I was never treated. A multiple victim car crash on the freeway had the E/R doctors busy working on those victims. So I called my sister Tia to pick me up, and she took me home.

Wallace returned to White Point a few weeks later to say thanks and that he had no permanent injuries. I saw him return to fish a few times after that.

CR: That was quite a harrowing tale. What’s the funniest rescue you’ve been on?

I was working Redondo at the AINS tower; the one just south of the Redondo/King Harbor Pier. I got a call from the switchboard and the guard said there was static on the telephone line that was attached to the hot box positioned on the beach inside the horseshoe pier. In those days, you could swim and surf between the piers and there was a small stretch of sand that the public used, so a lifeguard was assigned there. So I went over, and noticed that the hot box was not on the sand in its usual location. I looked around and saw that it was floating out in the surf and was headed toward the pier and eventually the harbor opening. I advised the switchboard, and additional guards were sent as back up. It took nine of us with fins to “rescue” the hot box and drag it back to shore.

CR: Tell us a bit about your background.

Kip: I became a lifeguard in 1974 and I have worked every area, except south of the Venice Pier. I lived in Venice before there was even a pier there. I got hooked on all things ocean and was inspired to become a lifeguard when (veteran lifeguard) Dick Orr took me out on a wooden tandem Pete Peterson paddleboard in the ocean off Venice when I was six. Dick also rescued me several times over the years at Venice and we became friends. I’ve surfed all over the world. I was a stuntman on “Baywatch” for three years. In addition to lifeguarding, I run Kanoa Aquatics Surf Camps, a non-profit company dedicated to sharing the beach and ocean with kids who may not otherwise get to go. The camps have given more than 10,000 inner city kids, and 400 kids from the Braille Institute, the awesome experience of being in the ocean and learning to surf.

CR: Who was in your 1974 rookie school class?

Mike White, Hans Fausnaut, J.D. Moryl, Tom Olson, Billy Robinson, Pat Jones, Tom Olson, Sabin Perkins are the ones I recall. Our teachers were Gary Crum, Erwin Okamura, Donny Souther, Ted Clair, Jay Amundson, and John McFarlane.

Who were your mentors?

Kip: There were several mentors for me. The aforementioned Dick Orr. Bill Mount was a great paddler, very humble and a really nice guy. Mike Stevenson, John Baker and Alfred Laws. They were the top athletes in the Southern Section and inspired me to compete in the Taplin. They also rescued me during a big day at Rincon when I got smacked against the rocks and split my board in half. They jumped in their VW van, drove ½ mile down the freeway and fished me out of the water with the lower half of my 7’6” round pin Becker board still attached to my leg. And Ted Clair showed me the politics of lifeguarding and a more spiritual way of looking at things. He was the most inspirational.

CR: What advice would you give to rookie lifeguards?

Kip: Never assume your back up sees you. Learn to surf. It will help you read the ocean better, which in turn lets you see a potential rescue early – especially at busy beaches. Do your job right, but have fun doing it. Get involved in the community.

CR: How do you stay in shape?

Kip: I surf and stand up paddle. I surf when it’s big and SUP when it’s small. I have rekindled my love of ocean swimming and try to get in at least 1,500 yards, five times a week. To stay limber and centered I do yoga and meditate daily. I try to eat healthy, but still enjoy almond mocha ice cream, and occasionally visit Beach Pizza on Highland. (I’ve always wanted to have pizza delivered for the group during rechecks – someday I will).

CR: What are your hobbies?

Kip: I took up SUP in 2009 and consider it also a hobby. I surfski and enjoy paddleboarding and manufacturing. I can also paint and sculpt. I made an 18” bronze sculpture for David Hasselhoff for Baywatch’s 250th show celebration (see photo below).

(Photo above courtesy of Kip Jerger. Sculpture and Photo Copyright Kip Jerger. Used here with permission.)

CR: Thanks for your time. Any closing thoughts or wisdom?

Kip: Lifeguards are generally good people. Make things easy for people around you. I try to be an example of living Aloha.*

*For the uninitiated, “...people who live or practice Aloha offer whatever they can — help, appreciation, expertise, or time — with no expectations. They do it as effortlessly as breathing and they keep doing it because it just feels so good to do the right thing,” says Barbara Santos, co-author of the book, “Practice Aloha.”

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Many Thanks to Adam Sandler and Kip Jerger for taking the time to share these words of wisdom and experience with all of us.

"Q&A With Kip Jerger": Copyright Adam Sandler & Kip Jerger 2011. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.

Re: White Point; Additional Links/Resources:



Until next time.....

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