Quick action by a skimboarder is credited with saving a life after a big wave knocked a child from the arms of her mother on Saturday at Aliso Beach, according to witnesses.
Videographer Pat Watson, who was trying out a new skimboard, sprinted into the water after he saw a woman pulled off her feet by one of the bigger set waves sweeping the beach, said Victoria Skimboard owner Tex Haines, who was also on the beach.
Watson dove under water as the child was lifted to the surface by an upwelling and grabbed her just as they were hit by another wave, Watson told Haines.
“He lifted the child to the surface as he came out of it, knowing the infant had not had a breath for the last three waves,” Haines said. “He fought his way upstream in the rip and handed the child back to it’s mother.
“Quick action by Pat, and a lot of luck, or that child was gone,” Haines said.
“Quite an incredible act of heroism…,” added resident Craig Brashier, another witness, who was on the sand to shoot photos of his son, one of the skimboarders getting pounded by the unusually large shore break.
Three skimboarders who threw aside their boards to charge north up the beach caught his attention.
“I wasn’t sure what was going on but started taking pictures,” said Brashier.
Aliso Beach is guarded by Orange County Life Guards. Spokesman James Watkins in Dana Point said he was unaware of the incident.
Without experienced watermen, who know there is no time to waste, the results could have been much different, said retired lifeguard Dale Ghere.
An insider’s knowledge of the break meant Watson could estimate accurately the depth and distance required to find a submerged baby in the churning whitewater. “It paid off,” said Ghere.
“It’s a classic tourist story of a clueless visitor who turns their back to the beach,” he said, recalling a similar incident at nearby Treasure Island Beach in the late ‘60s with a tragic outcome.
Then, a boy fell off Goff Island Pier and photographers in a nearby boat did nothing, recalled Ghere, part of dives teams that eventually recovered the body.
“Just the opposite happened here,” he said.