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1999 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees



1999 Medal of Valor Honorees


Ocean Lifegaurd Specialist Tex Ribera

On his day off, Ocean Lifeguard Todd Ribera was sampling a few waves in Newport Beach when he spotted a swimmer in trouble just past the surfline. Her two male companions were trying to assist her but not doing well.


He swam through the cold, 55-degree water to the three and as he reached the victim she began to lapse in and out of consciousness due to loss of strength and hypothermia. At this point Ribera found that her male friends also needed assistance.


Working without a rescue can, he was able to help the two men, but devoted the major part of his rescue assisting the female victim. Once close to shore, the men were able to help a little despite their weak condition and a language barrier.


As Ribera opened and kept clear the airway of the female, he was met at the shore by Newport Beach Paramedics who prepared the victim for advanced life support and transportation to a local hospital.


According to the Newport Beach Fire and Marine Chief Timothy Riley “…there is no question that Todd Ribera saved the life of this young woman and possibly the lives of her companions—he avoided a triple drowning.”

1999 Lifetime Achievment Honoree


Director Department of Beaches Jerry Cunningham


Jerry Cunningham is the recipient of the 1999 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Achievement award.  Jerry became a beach lifeguard in July 1946.  He moved through the ranks, becoming a permanent lifeguard in 1951, a Lieutenant in 1964, a Captain in 1966, Deputy Director of the Department of Beaches in 1971, Assistant Director in 1975, and Director of the Department of Beaches in 1979.  He continued as Director until the merger between Beach and Harbors and retired in 1984.


Whether as a lifeguard on the beach or in command of the entire lifeguard operation, Jerry Cunningham did it all during his 36 years as a professional lifeguard.  He saved an incredible number of lives during his career. He promoted lifeguarding as a profession, created the framework for the current organization of the three sections, and was a leading advocate of the present safety series retirement.


He was an instructor at one time for all recurrent lifeguards, the President of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association as well as the National Surf Lifesaving Association. He was a leader in helping the Los Angeles County Lifeguards be recognized as the top lifeguard service in the country.


He spoke before the state legislature, wrote legislation and worked with every governmental agency, newspaper, and group that could possibly help the lifeguard organization and promote the health and safety of the beach going public.  He understood how government works.


Jerry was a competitor.  He swam and played water polo at Loyola High School, Loyola University, and Long Beach State.  He tried out for the Olympic Water Polo Team in 1948 and 1952 and played on the Junior and Senior National Championship Team during those years.  He competed for ten years in the World Bodysurfing championships and for twenty-five years in the annual Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim.


Jerry was a great ambassador for the Los Angeles County Lifeguards.  He always understood that strong, positive relationships as the single greatest resource of any organization.  As a result of these qualities and his leadership, individual lifeguards and the profession as a whole performed beyond everyone’s expectations.


1999 Cunningham
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