Cliff Skudin was giving a private surfing lesson on the Long Beach Boulevard beach on Tuesday at around 5:30 p.m. It was hot, and the beach was still crowded a day after Memorial Day.
Skudin, 30, a well-known big-wave surfer, a former city lifeguard and the co-operator, with his brother, Will, of the surfing school Skudin Surf, said he was walking down the beach toward Monroe Boulevard and “scoping out the ocean” with his student when he saw three teenage boys in distress near the Monroe Boulevard jetty.
Skudin said he told his student to dial 911 and then dashed into the ocean with his surfboard. One of the victims was about 50 yards out, while the other two were about 100 yards out, and he heard them yelling for help.
“The first thing I did was, I gave my surfboard to the closer victim and told him to hold onto it,” Skudin recounted, adding that the teen made it safely to shore. “And then I went for the next two — I didn’t have time to take him in and go back out and look for the other two guys.”
Luckily, a bystander on the beach paddled the board back out to help Skudin. “I don’t know who he was,” he said of the good Samaritan. “We kept them on the board and swam them in …”
Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie praised Skudin for his efforts, saying that the teenagers likely would have drowned in the rough water, with no lifeguards on duty. By the time firefighters and police arrived, Gillespie said, Skudin was swimming the teens back to shore.
“We’ve had four rescues now near where what we call the drowning jetty,” Gillespie said. “Cliff is … one of the strongest individuals on a surfboard. We were there right away, but he’s quick.”
Gillespie said that the teens, whose names were not immediately released, were not injured and did not require medical attention. Still, he added, he is frustrated when visitors, mostly from out of town, ignore the signs warning beachgoers that swimming is prohibited when lifeguards are not on duty.
“They were standing on the shore scared to death,” Gillespie said. “[Cliff] did it all himself, which is truly amazing. He should be given a special award for what he did, and I hope their parents in Rockville Centre realize how lucky those kids were that he was there.”
Skudin said he was just glad the teens are OK, and that he simply “reacted” when he saw them in distress. One of them thanked him for saving his life afterward.
“I can honestly say this was the heaviest rescue I was in on — these guys were so far out and so helpless,” Skudin said. “Instead of fighting [the rip current] straight in, we swam to the side away from the rip, and then the waves kind of pushed us in.”