Lifeguards save 2 youths from rip current at Trinidad State Beach

'They were fighting to keep their mouths above water'

North Coast Junior Lifeguards, from left, Zaca Leatherwood, Ellie Earle-Rouse, Austin Costello-Anderson, Shannon Ingram, Ben Bagg, Adrian York, pose for a photo. York was one of four 16-year-olds who helped save the lives of two tourists caught in a rip current on Vaterans Day. (Calfironia State Parks — Contributed)
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Two young tourists from Shasta County were playing in the surf at Trinidad State Beach on Monday afternoon when a rip current pulled them out to see and nearly cost the two young men their lives.

“Their version is they were out in the surf playing  — chest-deep or so — a set of larger waves came in and took them off their feet,” said California State Parks ranger Keven Harder, who spoke to the two young men after they were rescued.

She said the two, ages 15 and 20, “were pretty shook up” after the ordeal.

“They got caught in a rip current, so they were kind of a long way out at sea,” Harder said. “They tried to get back in but they were exhausted. They started yelling for help.”

It was four 16-year-old boys who were surfing on a foggy Veterans Day who heard the calls for help.

“What we think is very cool is these kids are people we have trained through our own program,” Harder said of the North Coast Junior Lifeguards program that started locally in 2016. “It’s nice to see our efforts come to fruition and start saving lives.”

Harder said Adrian York, a teen who is one of six people from Humboldt County to successfully complete the rigorous California State Parks lifeguard certification program in Huntington Beach, led the rescuers.

“He’s a state lifeguard now and he was one of the surfers out there,” said Harder. “He directed the whole scene. His three friends were all part of our Junior Lifeguard program. They are the ones who actually saved these two people’s lives. It was a good rescue.”

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

  • North Coast Junior Guards, a program of the California State Parks, train in July. Several participants in the program put the skills to good use and saved two people on Monday. (California State Parks — Contributed)

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He said the actions of the four teens made the difference for the two Shasta County residents.

“They were fighting to keep their mouths above water,” Harder said, adding, “We feel like this was our vision four years ago starting this whole thing. You save one life. It pays off. Probably in all likelihood (they) should have drowned. It was foggy and there were no rescuers available.”

Harder said the Junior Lifeguard program started in the summer of 2016 with around 50 students. This past summer, he said there were 150 youths in the program.

Prior to 2016, there were no lifeguard training programs north of San Francisco. Getting the program off the ground locally was not easy, according to Harder.

“With that program, the state mandates that we have a minimum of one state-trained ocean lifeguard per 20 kids,” he said. “My problem when we started the program was we don’t have lifeguards up here. I had to beg, borrow and steal lifeguards from across the state. … My goal was once we get this program going, was that we can start developing our own water men and water women. This last year, we finally reached that point.”

York and five others traveled to Huntington Beach for the state certification. The program is so intense, Harder said, it “historically weeds out 50% of those people who go in.”

Having all six local candidates complete the program was a tremendous win, Harder added.

“After a couple years of experience, We should have our coastline guarded full time by a lifeguard,” he said. “That was the goal.”

For more information on the North Coast Junior Lifeguards, go to https://bit.ly/2NEs1gB.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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