2006 Surf Festival Dinner Honorees
2006 Medal of Valor Honorees
Ocean Lifegaurd Specialist Brian Lanich
On October 16, Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Brian Lanich was stationed as the deckhand aboard Baywatch Isthmus, on Catalina Island. At 5:30 a.m., the winds began to blow 20-25 knots, with gusts over 35 knots.
On Catalina Island, Northeastern winds make the ocean incredibly dangerous for boaters along the leeward side of the island. Almost immediately, 4-6 foot waves began to crash through normally calm, pristine coves where recreational boaters anchor or moor their vessels.
On that dark and stormy night, Baywatch Isthmus received a distress call from a 55’ yacht tangled up in its mooring lines. With high seas and “Gale” force winds blowing against their anchor and lines, boat operators find it almost impossible to physically release from their moorings. These extreme conditions, including thunder, lightning, and driving rain, can cause a large vessel to lift, drag, and sever lines that were once secure.
With a flash light, a knife, and scuba gear Brian Lanich, working under extreme conditions for a period of five hours, would first secure a tow line from the vessel to the Baywatch and then dive under the boat to free their fouled lines.
Out of air in the SCUBA tanks, Brian had to free dive to save the last four boats. Once a tow line was secured and the lines cut free, Lanich would climb back aboard Baywatch to assist with the tow.
Captain Kevin Marble towed the boats and those aboard through heavy seas to open water. The Baywatch crew towed 13 vessels away from the island’s rocky shores. This hazardous procedure was performed in rough, rolling seas, while next to and under vessels from 30’ to 60’, and weighing several tons or more.
Brian Lanich’s courage, stamina, skills, and fortitude ensured the safety of 24 people and over $4 million in property.
Ocean Lifeguard Specialist Casey Culp
On Thursday, November 24th at 2:15 a.m., Ocean Lifeguard Casey Culp was working as a deckhand aboard Baywatch Isthmus when they got an emergency call. Baywatch Isthmus was requested to respond to the West End of Catalina for a boat sinking. A 31-foot fishing boat had hit a rock and was taking on water.
Upon arrival, the Baywatch crew found a vessel fully lit up for squid fishing. The problem was, the boat had a 2’ x 2’ hole in the bow. The squid were so thick under the boat that it looked like a solid bottom on the Baywatch sonar. Swimming back and forth through the squid were many large sea predators.
The fishing boat had its generator on to run both the powerful lights and the pumps that were barely able to keep the boat afloat. The boat was poorly maintained and had bare 110-volt wires exposed in several locations.
Casey Culp went onboard the fishing boat without hesitation in order to survey the situation and to man the pumps. During this process, he was shocked several times while in contact with the water rising in the bilges. Ignoring the feeding frenzy that was now going on beneath the vessel, Casey then jumped overboard and began patching the hole from the outside with blankets and other stuffing in order to slow the down the water pouring into the boat.
Climbing back on board he again took up the task of manning the pumps and effecting repairs from the inside, repeatedly being shocked until the owner of the boat could shut down the generator and run off 12-volt current.
Unfortunately, this disabled the bright “squid lights”, so when Casey re-entered the water to repack the hole, it was now pitch black, though still thick with the squid and other large seal life. After this second dive beneath the boat, the temporary patch was now secure, and the incoming water slowed enough for the pumps to clear the boat.
Baywatch Isthmus then towed the boat to safety, thus saving the lives of the members and the fishing boat.
2006 Distinquished Service Honorees
Ocean Lifeguard Sean Nollan
On December 21, Sean Nollan was working Torrance Beach in very large surf conditions. A worried parent had approached Sean and asked him to check out her son who was surfing the huge waves.
After swimming out and discovering that the surfer was ok, Sean noticed another young surfer further out who seemed to be very frightened of the surf conditions. Sean swam to him and offered his assistance in getting to shore.
Immediately Sean and the young boy were hit with a 15’ wave and both went over the falls. Sean quickly removed the surfer’s leash and board, letting them get washed into shore. He then swam the surfer through several huge sets of waves with whitewater over 10 feet in height.
Sean had to carefully navigate his way around the rocks to prevent injury to both himself and the victim. Finally negotiating a brief lull between sets, Sean was able to assist the victim up onto the rocks, 300 yards south of where he had first entered the water.
Ocean Lifeguard Josh Lee
On December 21, Josh Lee was lifeguarding at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. While working the Breakwater tower, a surfer’s leash snapped, and he had lost his board. The surfer was tired, rapidly losing the battle against the current, and in serious jeopardy of being swept into the rock jetty 100 yards away.
Josh immediately entered the water and began swimming to the surfer who was several hundred yards offshore. Josh reached the victim just before the surfer would have been thrown on the partially submerged jetty.
By constantly swimming against the raging current, he was able to keep the surfer away from danger and injury. Each time Josh would begin to swim the surfer away from the jetty, another huge set would push them toward the jagged rocks.
Eventually, fellow lifeguard Adam Uehara arrived on the scene on a personal watercraft (PWC) and was able to reach Josh and his victim, and thake them outside to a waiting Baywatch Rescue Boat.
2006 Lifetime Achievment Honoree
Lifeguard Section Chief Gary Crum
Gary Crum is the recipient of the 2006 Los Angeles County Lifeguard Lifetime Achievement award. For 35 years, Gary served the Los Angeles County Lifeguards with great distinction. He distinguished himself as a lifeguard, as a leader, as a competitor, as an advocate for the lifeguards through the Los Angels County Lifeguard Association and now the International Surf Festival and as a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Lifeguards in Southern California, in the state, and throughout the United States and Australia.
Gary grew up surrounded by lifeguard lore and legends. In 1960 he became a L.A. County Jr. Lifeguard in the first year of the program.
Whether he was serving as a recurrent, a permanent, a Captain, or a Section Chief, watching the water and saving lives has been the priority. From the time Gary started his career in 1966 as a recurrent until he retired as a Section Chief in 2001, he has always been a leader. From 1974 through 1983 he served as a Captain and in that capacity, among numerous other duties, he headed up the Jr. Lifeguard Program and the Lifeguard Training Academy. In 1984 he became a Section Chief. After 3 years leading Zuma Beach and 3 years as Section Chief in Lifeguard Division, he served 11 years as the Section Chief in charge of the Southern Section. During this period, he also served as Paramedic Coordinator and the Swift Water Coordinator.
Gary was also a top competitor. As a doryman, he was on 11 winning Taplin teams. As a Section Chief, he inspired his Zuma and Southern Section teams to numerous victories. In addition, he was a member of 10 Intracrew championship teams, 8 United States Lifesaving Championship Teams, and was a 4 time representative to Australia as part of the Wieland Shield exchange.
Gary was the President of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Association when LACOLA became certified as the official bargaining unit for the lifeguards. During his four-year term in office, LACOLA had an amazing 100% membership of all recurrent and all full time lifeguards. Under his term as president, Gary created the non-profit LACOLA Trust fund and wan an original trustee. He serves as co-coordinator of the Lifeguard Alumni Association. He served as President of the International Surf Festival for ten years, and with Dennis McCarberry helped establish the Lifeguard Medal of Valor ceremony.
Perhaps most importantly, Gary Crum was a key figure in the battle to return the L.A. County Lifeguards to State owned beaches and to fold the L.A. County Lifeguards into the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Gary grew up surrounded by lifeguard lore and legends. He learned from the best and then took what was given and made it even better.