International Surf Festival a 501(c)(4) Non Profit Corporation

1996 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees

 

 

1996 Medal of Valor Honorees

 

Ocean Lifegaurd Specialist Tim Ryan

On Saturday, September 8, 1995, Ocean Lifeguard Tim Ryan had taken over at Zuma Beach Tower 1. At about 5:15 pm a beachgoer ran up to Tim’s tower and notified him that someone was buried in a hole towards the back of the beach. After requesting a backup, Tim ran to the scene.

 

Upon his arrival, all Tim could see was a waist deep depression about 10 feet wide and the bottoms of two feet. Bystanders told him that underneath the sand was a man who had been digging the hole. Little did Tim know that the hole was about 8 feet deep and ran off at a 45-degree angle? The man was head first into the hole and since his knees were bent at an angle, Tim was not exactly sure in which direction to dig. To complicate matter, he had to keep the beach patrons back in order to avoid causing further cave-ins to the hole.

 

Being careful not to cause damage to the victim, Tim began to furiously dig down towards where he thought the man’s head might be located. He first used a shovel, then a bucket, and then his hands to dig in the soft sand. He commandeered several bystanders to use their boogieboards to shore up the sides of the excavation.

 

Lance Dempsey arrived on the scene to offer assistance and after about 8 minutes of continuous digging, they found the head of the unconscious victim. An airway was put in and Tim began to ventilate the man while other lifeguards dug away the sand from the rest of his body.

 

After another 4 minutes, the victim was finally extricated from the hole and airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. After 4 days in a coma, the man woke up, and was released with no permanent injuries.

 

Tim Ryan’s immediate response, determination, resourcefulness, and excellent physical condition allowed him to defy the odds and rescue this man from certain death.

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Mel Soleberg

On Sunday, February 18, 1996, Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Mel Solberg and Captain Phil Topar were assigned to the Manhattan Beach Pier Tower. There was a strong wet swell running, with 10-foot waves breaking outside the end of the Manhattan Pier.  Mel noticed four teenagers, fully clothed, walking along the water’s edge in about knee-deep water. A particularly big wave broke causing the water to swirl about and around them. Two girls were immediately sucked into an inshore hole and out to sea. The lifeguards had already anticipated trouble and were headed in the direction of the victims before they were in trouble.

 

Mel immediately entered the cold 57-degree water and quickly headed in the direction of the girls. In the large surf, choppy seas, and swirling riptide, he had tremendous difficulty keeping an eye on the girls. Using the riptide as a guide he headed in their direction. Captain Topar followed Solberg out and also lost sight of the victims.

 

When Mel arrived in the general location of where he had last seen the girls, all he saw were the finger of a hand and hair floating on the surface. Following the hand and hair down, he pulled the unconscious victim to the surface. Still in the drop zone of the tremendous surf, he supported the unconscious victim while swimming to the second victim who was about 20 yards away and about to go under. With both victims on his rescue can he was relieved when Phil Topar arrived and took the conscious girl onto his can.

 

They then took the victims out past the surfline through the biggest waves of the day and Mel began to administer CPR to his unconscious victim while in the water. Through their efforts, she finally resumed breathing although she remained unconscious. After a period of time, with the victims suffering from hypothermia and the lifeguards physically spent, the Lifeguard Rescue Boat, Baywatch Redondo, arrived, picked up all four people, and after a few harrowing moments involving the boat and the waves, transported everyone back to King Harbor.

 

The 15-year-old girl was hospitalized for almost a week and treated for possible secondary drowning but was eventually release with no permanent injury.

Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Mike Hapke

 

On December 13, 1995, as the result of a fierce winter storm, the South Bay was experiencing huge surf with wave faces as large as 20 feet.  One of the few surfing spots where these huge waves can be ridden is the Redondo Breakwater. At the northern tip of the breakwall, the waves briefly hold their shape and a surfer can catch the ride of his or her life. One of the problems, however, is that these huge waves come barreling in, exploding over the rocks. Into the seawall, and the neighboring parking lot. People have lost their lives in the past not heeding the tremendous force of this type of winter storm surf.

 

Mike Hapke and Theresa Connelly had been assigned to the breakwater to both keep people off the seawall and to keep a close eye on the surfers who ventured out. About 1:00 pm, Mike observed a surfer who had lost his board and was caught in the drop zone of these tremendous waves. He sent Theresa to the area in front of the 2nd Street Lifeguard Tower in case the surfer was washed north. He realized that the only way he could get to the victim was to make his way out over the rocks of the breakwater and to jump off from those rocks into the surf. With 20-foot waves breaking over the rocks and the 10-foot seawall, Mike had to time his entry perfectly. Too early and he would be thrown into the seawall himself; too late and he would be pinned underwater against the rocks.

 

At this time Mike realized that another surfer was now in trouble in the area. Timing his entry between the waves, he quickly made his way to the first victim and pulled him away from the rocks. The Lifeguard Rescue Boat, Baywatch Redondo, arrived at this point and Mike was able to direct the deckhand, Lifeguard Mike McIlroy, to the second victim. Both lifeguards towed their victims outside the surf line and were picked up by the Baywatch and skipper Larry Dickson and taken to King Harbor and safety.

 

For Michael Hapke’s courage in the face of extreme personal danger, he is awarded the Lifeguard Medal of Valor.

1996 Distinquished Service Honoree

 

Lifeguard Captain Phil Topar

 

On Sunday, February 18, 1996, Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Mel Solberg and Captain Phil Topar were assigned to the Manhattan Beach Pier Tower. There was a strong wet swell running, with 10-foot waves breaking outside the end of the Manhattan Pier.  Mel noticed four teenagers, fully clothed, walking along the water’s edge in about knee-deep water. A particularly big wave broke causing the water to swirl about and around them. Two girls were immediately sucked into an inshore hole and out to sea. The lifeguards had already anticipated trouble and were headed in the direction of the victims before they were in trouble.

 

Mel immediately entered the cold 57-degree water and quickly headed in the direction of the girls. In the large surf, choppy seas, and swirling riptide, he had tremendous difficulty keeping an eye on the girls. Using the riptide as a guide he headed in their direction. Captain Topar followed Solberg out and also lost sight of the victims.

 

When Mel arrived in the general location of where he had last seen the girls, all he saw were the finger of a hand and hair floating on the surface. Following the hand and hair down, he pulled the unconscious victim to the surface. Still in the drop zone of the tremendous surf, he supported the unconscious victim while swimming to the second victim who was about 20 yards away and about to go under. With both victims on his rescue can he was relieved when Phil Topar arrived and took the conscious girl onto his can.

 

They then took the victims out past the surfline through the biggest waves of the day and Mel began to administer CPR to his unconscious victim while in the water. Through their efforts, she finally resumed breathing although she remained unconscious. After a period of time, with the victims suffering from hypothermia and the lifeguards physically spent, the Lifeguard Rescue Boat, Baywatch Redondo, arrived, picked up all four people, and after a few harrowing moments involving the boat and the waves, transported everyone back to King Harbor.

 

The 15-year-old girl was hospitalized for almost a week and treated for possible secondary drowning but was eventually release with no permanent injury.

1996 Lifetime Achievment Honoree

 

Director Department of Beaches Dick Fitzgerald

 

Dick Fitzgerald is the recipient of the 1996 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Achievement award.  Dick Fitzgerald has come a long way through the ranks of ocean lifeguarding and administration, starting 57 years ago in the first Junior Lifeguard Program.  He became an ocean lifeguard three years later and spent 15 years as a recurrent, a career interrupted by World War II.

 

In 1969 he was appointed L.A. County’s first Director of Beaches and served for 11 years.  During his tenure, the County doubled the size of its beach operations.  The Santa Monica Lifeguards and the Los Angeles City Lifeguards merged into the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches.   Fitzgerald oversaw the development of the Beach Bike Path and brought an environmental focus to the County’s shoreline.  The need for new construction of adequate restrooms to serve the public became a high priority.  He fought hard to establish better beach access in by acquiring ten-foot wide public easement as a condition for building permits on the beach.  This would insure that access to the beach would always be preserved for the public along the Malibu coast.

 

He worked to establish year around rescue boat operations on Catalina Island to better serve the boating needs of the ever-increasing cross channel activity.  He significantly increased the training and professionalism of the beach lifeguards by establishing, lifeguard paramedic operations at Zuma beach on Catalina Island.  Under his direction, all of the full time lifeguards were trained as EMT providers, certified scuba divers and certified in “Code 3 driving”.

 

He has served his community in many ways.  It was Fitzgerald who initiated the International Surf Festival in 1962 as a Chamber of Commerce Manager for Redondo Beach.  He attained several “Outstanding Citizen” awards from various civic groups.