“What the (expletive) happened to my leg guys?” Those are words Jesse Golden said he will never forget as he remembered hearing rescuing a fellow surfer off the coast of Shell Beach last Monday.
Golden, a Cal Poly forestry and natural resources sophomore, and his surfing buddy James Matthew of Cuesta College were catching waves south of Spyglass Park in Shell Beach last Monday when they heard screams from a fellow surfer off in the distance.
“I just pulled off my last wave when I looked to the side and saw this guy – he was flailing,” Golden said. “I could see in the look on his face that he was in some serious pain.”
Immediately, Golden said he took off his leash and swam to the man, who was about 50 yards off shore.
A state lifeguard back home in Ventura, Golden’s instincts took over and he began assessing the situation, first checking to see if the man had a head injury. But Golden soon realized the pain was coming from the man’s leg.
“I saw his right knee and there was a bone sticking out of his knee,” Golden recalled. “From the lower part of his knee down, you could see his leg was turned about 30 degrees to the side.”
Michael Harkness, battalion chief for CDF/Pismo Beach Fire Department, said the unidentified man was surfing alone at St. Anne’s, the break below Spyglass Park, when he hit a rock under the water and broke his leg.
At the time, however, Golden, was able to figure out the man had hurt himself on the “rock reef” near Spyglass Park and attempted to get the man to shore. That’s when Golden’s friend Matthew came to help.
“We kind of dragged him off his board and we put my arms under his so he could float,” Golden explained. “When we pulled him out of the water was when he really started screaming.”
After calling 9-1-1 for assistance, Golden said some nearby surfers also joined in to help.
“The other guys wanted to carry him up, but the main deal was that there was a 30-foot cliff there,” Golden said. “So it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Even when county rescuers arrived, the cliff posed too much of a hazard.
On shore, Capt. Bill Grundler and firefighter Derek McTiernan were able to stabilize the man’s leg on a rescue board. Rescuers then decided the best course of action was to lift him out of the water from Hartford Pier, Harkness said. So the two firefighters paddled him out 200 yards from shore to a boat provided by the Port San Luis Harbor Patrol. Rescuers then transported the injured man onto the pier where a waiting ambulance took the man to an unknown hospital.
From his brief conversation with the unidentified surfer, Golden discovered that the injured surfer was a 21-year-old UCSB student named Michael who was simply passing through on his way back to Santa Barbara.
“That was the scary thing – he was surfing alone,” Golden said. “If we weren’t there, he probably would have been all right, but you never know.”
But Golden says he doesn’t deserve all the credit.
“I really didn’t do much, I just pulled him out,” he said. “The firefighters did everything else – they were amazing.