A Group of Teens on Their Surf Boards Saved Two Swimmers from Drowning

Two swimmers struggle for their lives until a group of teens arrive on their boards.

Spenvser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck, and Adrian York on the beach holding surf boardsCourtesy Eva York
When swimmers were at risk of drowning, Spenvser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck, and Adrian York (left to right), along with Narayan Weibel, jumped in to help.

Past the breakers, about 50 feet from shore, two brothers were fighting for their lives. They had been swept out to sea in a rip current, their mouths barely able to stay above the water. Thick fog made it difficult for beachgoers on Northern California’s Trinidad State Beach to see the guys, but the screams were unmistakable. And every second counted. The brothers, ages 15 and 20, were wearing shorts and T-shirts, unsuitable for a November day, let alone the 50-degree water. Keven Harder, a supervising ranger, told the North Coast Journal in nearby Eureka that swimming in such a temperature “takes the fight right out of you.”

Luckily, four surfers in wet suits were nearby. Narayan Weibel, Spenser Stratton, and Adrian York, all 16, along with Taj Ortiz-Beck, 15, were on their surfboards riding up and down the coast on five-foot waves when they heard the cries. They turned and saw two bobbing heads and four flailing arms.

“We looked at each other and knew these guys were about to drown,” Weibel told the Washington Post.

Weibel, Stratton, and Ortiz-Beck paddled toward the distressed swimmers while York headed to shore to alert someone to call 911. He then dived back in to help his friends.

text: “We looked at each other and knew these guys were about to drown.”

As the surfers drew close, the brothers were struggling. “It was pretty stressful, but there wasn’t any time to think about it, and that helped me keep my cool,” Ortiz-Beck says.

Ortiz-Beck pulled up alongside the younger brother. Grabbing him under his arms, he hoisted him up onto his board. Stratton and Weibel, meanwhile, were straining to help the older brother. He was large, 250 to 300 pounds, and he was panicked.

“We told them, ‘Calm down—we got you!’” says Weibel. “They thought they were going to die.”

York arrived in time to help get the older brother atop the second board. The surfers then paddled several minutes through choppy water to the medical help waiting onshore. The brothers were scared but fine.

“When we get a call like this one, it’s usually too late by the time we get there,” says Dillon Cleavenger, a first responder. “I can’t say enough about what these boys did. They were willing and prepared to risk their lives.”

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.