1995 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees
1995 Medal of Valor Honorees
Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Brian Merrigan
Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Mike Inscore
On February 3rd, the surf at the Redondo Beach Breakwater was so large that the lifeguards instructed would be swimmers and surfers not to go in the ocean because of the dangerous conditions. Earlier in the day, four people were swept off the top of the breakwater wall by the giant surf and one of the four died from the injuries. There were very few surfers out that day as most people were just on the beach watching the large surf.
Brian Merrigan was working 2nd Street, Hermosa Beach when he observed two jet skiers enter the area and begin going in and out of the monster surf. They had launched the jet skies from inside King Harbor and ridden them around the breakwater from outside the surfline. Almost immediately one of the jet skis became disabled and the skier was separated from the ski inside the surfline. The other jet skier came in to help, but his jet ski also became disabled and he too was immediately in trouble.
Brian Merrigan ran from his 2nd Street lifeguard tower and proceeded along the rocks under the Chart House. He entered the water at that point to rescue the first skier who was being pounded by the huge storm surf and being driven into the rocks.
Meanwhile, Mike Inscore had witnessed the problem from the Hermosa Lifeguard Headquarters, one mile to the north. He immediately drove the lifeguard rescue truck along Hermosa Avenue and into the Redondo Marina along Yacht Club Way. He then ran along the top of the break wall and dove off the rocks to assist Merrigan with one victim so the other victim could be rescued and the jet skies secured. After considerable effort and at personal risk, the two lifeguards were able to pull both victims safely to shore.
Ocean Lifeguard Mike Peoples
Mike Peoples is an outstanding triathlete. On February 25th, Mike was halfway through a 100 mile training bide ride when he observed a number of people watching a single person ultralight airplane. The plane was flying 50 to 60 feet above the highway and beach. The plane caught his attention due to it’s low altitude.
As the pilot circled for another run, he made a sharp right turn approximately 300 yards off the coast almost directly in front of mike. The pilot could not pull out of the turn and clipped the wing of the ultralight on the water’s surface. The plane spun out of control, did one cartwheel, and sank almost immediately.
Fearing that the pilot might have been knocked unconscious from the impact, mike immediately got off his bicycle and stripped down to his speedos. He ran around a rock seawall and across the beach before entering the 56 degree water.
While swimming out, mike saw the pilot surface on his back. The pilot was struggling and fully clothed. As it turned out, the pilot was wearing a heavy leather jacket, long blue jeans and boots.
When Mike reached the pilot, he found him to be totally disoriented, cold, and too exhausted to help himself. Mike reassured the victim and towed him to shore. When they reached chest deep water, the pilot was unable to stand or walk due to hypothermia and exhaustion. After removing the pilot’s jacket and with the help of bystanders, mike carried him to the beach where he treated the pilot for shock and assessed his condition.
After a few minutes, California State Lifeguards and the Ventura County Fire Department Paramedics and Sheriffs arrived. The pilot was released to their custody and Mike dressed and continued on the second half of his 100 mile training bike ride.
1995 Lifetime Achievment Honoree
Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Paul Matthies
Paul Matthies is the recipient of the 1995 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Achievement award. Paul was a Los Angeles County Lifeguard from 1946 through 1976. He joined the lifeguards after returning from the war. There were only eight lifeguards at the time, but after the war, with the growth of the area, thirty lifeguards were hired to handle the increased activity. Paul had grown up in Hermosa Beach, knew the water, and had always wanted to be a lifeguard. In the early days Paul had been one of the pioneer surfers in the area and he founded the Hermosa Beach Surf Club in 1936.
During his years with the County, Paul worked in the Southern Section, primarily in Hermosa Beach. Paul was a long time member of the Underwater Recovery Team and served as Dive Master in charge of training and safety. Paul is also known as the father of dory racing competing on Taplin teams and national competitions. Paul was still so competitive in rowing the dory that he was on the winning Taplin team his has year of lifeguarding at age 55. Paul designed and built L.A. County’s first “self bailing” dory. Paul is one of the original “Ironmen” and is credited with helping to introduce the event to Australia in the international exchange of 1965. He and “Aussie” friend Hayden Kenny trained their respective son, Dan and Grant, to go on to their nations Ironman Champions.
Paul has been a pioneer in International Exchanges dating from 1965 to his retirement in 1976. He served as Team Manager for the 1973 Wieland Shield Tour to Australia. He has also served as a lecturer on International Lifesaving Seminars.
Paul has always been very community minded and very generous with his time. He served on the Hermosa Beach Parks and Recreation Commission; The L.A. County Beach Advisory Committee; Barber Shop Quartets; and served as the Easy Reader “Surfing Santa” for over 20 years.