I was lying in my room across the street from Swell when I heard Tommy Willingham yelling. Tommy often gets excited, so it didn't immediately register that something was wrong. But, when I heard him yelling for Stephen Fernandez (our lifeguard and ocean rescuer) and that there was someone in need of rescue, my ears perked up. I started moving, and I began running toward the road. I could see Connor Knight running as well. We quickly made the turn towards the first intersection together, and as we banked down the alley toward the beach, we were in an all-out sprint. Sprinting because someone was in need, and there was a danger of loss of life, but also because our good friend Josh (a Veteran and WSF participant) was the man keeping this drowning person afloat and alive. We knew as we ran that it was a completely unknown situation with very minimal information, but rather than stand by and do nothing, we decided to take action.
As we made it to the beach and started running down the slope of the sand, it wasn't apparent where the emergency was or if anyone else on the beach was aware of what was going on. However, we had a general location from Tommy's wild alarm call, so we kept moving in that direction. Finally, we reached the spot where two exhausted men came out of the surf. A local man still clung to Josh with a terrified gaze on his face. Josh supporte
d the man's weight while dragging himself and a surfboard out of the surf. He passed the man to his family and then dropped to his knees.
As we reached to help him up, he began coughing and vomiting from pure exhaustion. "I'm good," he said as he turned and laid flat out on his back. As I felt my lungs burn, I could only imagine what his lungs felt like. As we tried to understand what happened, we gathered he had been struggling to get the man out of the rip current for somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes after he took over the task from an exhausted Tommy. There are no words to describe this difficult feat in the powerful Guatemalan surf. Even though we were still breathless, after witnessing Josh drag the local man from the surf, we knew the short distance we sprinted toward our friend was much less demanding.
Before we had time to comprehend what had happened, I turned and looked back toward the road; the entirety of the Warrior Surf contingent in El Paredòn was there with us or still running toward the incident. All of them were even less clueless than we were but showed a willingness to support. Many of them must have taken flight from their barstools and begun to run as they witnessed Connor and me racing by with intention.
Luckily, no one lost their life that day or was majorly injured. Thanks to the quick thinking of Tommy and Josh's mental and physical fortitude, we didn't have to do anything. No injuries, no CPR, no heroic-looking Hawaiian carries out of the water, no emergency life flights to the hospital (that last one is hard to come by, to begin with).
The truly unique thing to see was, again, the willingness and action from a group of people I
have the privilege of calling my friends. These men and women are not content with the status quo or passing responsibility off to the next person. Instead, these are genuine human beings with a willingness to run into the unknown and handle the shit life serves.
No. Questions. Asked.