An Inside Take From The Rescue In Santa Cruz - Stab Mag
Utter chaos. Photo: @totallytubularmag

An Inside Take From The Rescue In Santa Cruz

“I was helping a little girl, and she started screaming, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Am I going to die?'”

news // Jan 12, 2021
Words by Jack Mutschler
Reading Time: 2 minutes

On Sunday, a group of the Santa Cruz yacht club’s sailing students’ vessels capsized while returning from their daily lesson. With a 25-foot swell off the coast and king tides in play, it’s mind-boggling that students were on the water to begin with. 

As they attempted to re-enter the harbor, the 7-to-12-year-olds were caught by a set and found themselves in a terrible position, trapped between the waves and jacks (large pointy rocks) on the inside. It was a severely mistimed attempt to enter the harbor and resulted in overturned boats, kids submerged in 53-degree water, and strong rips pulling in multiple directions.  

Fortunately, a handful of locals were surfing this fickle and dangerous spot, despite the possibility of a citation from the local Harbor Patrol.

I tracked a few of them down to get a firsthand account of the event. Because it’s illegal to surf this spot, I’ll keep them anonymous, referring to them as Sources 1, 2, and 3.

“Definitely a poor decision for the boats to go out there that day,” Source 1 said. “For anyone that’s getting a lesson, whether it’s surfing, swimming, or sailing.”

All the surfers present were hoping for the best, but few were surprised when things went off the tracks and the kids were swept off their sailboats.

While some of the victims remained calm during the event, others panicked. Source 2 said, “I was helping a little girl, and she started screaming, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Am I going to die? Am I going to die?’ She was petrified.”

Source 3 could barely fight the current. “It was literally a river. I had a kid on my back, and I could not fight the rip. So I actually ended up going out, getting out the back a little bit. Eventually, I handed the kid off to the Harbor patrol boat, who was on it, and there super quick to help out.”

Photo Courtesy Of Totallytubularmag.

Thankfully, the Harbor Patrol boats were not far behind the surfers, and all of the kids were rescued.


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