“I didn’t even really think about it,” she said. Waller said she couldn’t see the man, but she just started swimming out until she found him. He was complaining of a leg cramp, saying that he couldn’t feel his leg, Waller recounted. Waller said she tried to calm the man using her lifeguard training. She and her friend Haley Abott, 15, lifted the man onto Abott’s sister’s surfboard, and used it to transport him back to the shore. Waller said she put the surfboard’s leash on her ankle, and started paddling.
“She saved someone’s life,” said Waller’s mother, Robin. “I was beyond proud. She’s my hero.”
When they got him back on the beach, Waller said that the man thanked them profusely, and seemed to be fine. She said police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel arrived five minutes later.
Gillespie said that on days like last Friday, when the beach is crowded and they don’t have a full staff, the crew is forced to try to prioritize and stay in the most populated areas. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the lifeguard shack, and headquarters is now based out of a trailer on the beach at Edwards Boulevard.
He said the lifeguards have a system for days when they are off-duty. If a rescue needs to be made, the Fire Department sends out a text to all of the lifeguards, so that if anyone is in the area they can respond.
Gillespie said it’s hard to predict whether opening the beaches earlier in the season, as some resident have called for, would help.
“It’s a tough call,” he said. “One summer we did that, and we had nobody at the beach. It’s a money thing too. If no one comes down here, and we’re staffing lifeguards and ticket takers, it becomes a large sum of money. We’re getting the job done here so far.”