The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - December 2016


Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - December 2016

Fall storms are pounding our rugged coastline with spectacular record-sized waves. But even on those fair-weather beach-going days, when families are drawn to the ocean, it can be dangerous. ‘Sleeper waves’ can knock you down and pull your legs out from under you as you wade in the shore-break. Before you realize what is happening you can be sucked out into the pounding surf. Such is the case last February 26, when a Lake County family of five was determined to enjoy their day at the beach in spite of the cool weather and huge waves forecast.  

State Parks Lifeguard Aaron Perdergraft was patrolling the Goat Rock beach when he saw the family clearly in trouble in the pounding surf. The mother and daughter were swept out into the churning whitewater while the others made their way to safety. 

Aaron PendergraftWithout even taking the time to don his wetsuit, Lifeguard Pendergraft dove into the water to help. The huge breakers kept him from getting the pair back to shore, and also kept other rescuers from getting out to help them. Pendegraft held onto the pair for the next 10-15 minutes in the thundering, frigid waves while the Sheriff Helicopter Henry 1 was summoned. Deputies from the Guerneville Sub-station, and fire personnel from Bodega Bay Fire, CALFIRE, and Monte Rio Fire all responded to assist the State Lifeguards.

Due to State Parks Lifeguard Aaron Pendergraft’s heroic efforts on that chilly Spring day, certain tragedy was averted. The family was treated for their injuries and hypothermia at the hospital, counting their blessings and surely thankful that their ‘guardian angel’ was patrolling the beach that day. Lifeguard Pendergraft was also treated for mild hypothermia, but was back on the job soon. 

It is no easy task to be considered qualified enough to join the ranks of our North Coast State Parks Lifeguard Team. According to State Parks Ranger Alexis Jones, who herself started as a Lifeguard back in 1997, interested persons are invited to participate in a ‘cold tryout’. This consists of a 1,000 yard open water swim which must be completed in 20 minutes. Followed almost immediately by a ‘run-swim-run’ where candidates run 200 yards, swim 400 yards, and run 200 yards. Tryouts are held several times a year, and will be held at Doran Beach for the first time this year. 

Successful applicants are invited to participate in an Appraisal Interview where they are screened for experience, decision making skills and their ability to recognize resources. These interviews are conducted regionally depending on what area they seek to be a lifeguard. After that, they attend a ten day training program in Huntington Beach. From there lifeguards are assigned to an area where they will continue to prove themselves in the field. 

It is very important to note that the State Beach Lifeguards here on the Sonoma Coast are only here on ‘an invited’ basis. That is, our Lifeguards are all Seasoned, Vetted Returnees. We have the Best of the Best. And we are doubly fortunate here to have Aaron Pendergraft’s knowledge and familiarity of these coastal waters, drawn from his surfing & diving days. 

Aaron Pendergraft was awarded the Medal of Honor at a State Lifeguard ceremony in Bodega given to honor his saving of that family in February. Ken Sund of Jenner witnessed the dramatic rescue by Pendergraft and was inspired to promote a “thank you barbecue” for our Coastal Emergency Responders. He proposed the idea to his Board at the Jenner Community Center and went about inviting the various Local Volunteer Fire Departments and Fire Stations as well as the CHP and Sheriffs. 

Local Fire Captain Steve Baxman did the honors and the Jenner Community fed them all! The Jenner Community continues to humble us all with their spirit of Community and Giving in all circumstances. They are the small town with the Huge Heart! Please visit their website and consider a donation.

Whether it is a fire, an automobile accident, a cliff or ocean rescue, all of these agencies respond. It is an “all-in effort”. On behalf of myself and my West County/Coastal neighbors, Thank You!