By Gail Powell
On a foggy morning in March 2011, a man who blacked out in the water while surfing off Sunset Cliffs survived, all thanks to quick action from three fellow surfers. Fox5 News reported at the time that surfer David Scheidlinger was very close to death, when help arrived from an angel in a wetsuit!
“I remember being at the top of the stairs carrying my board down and starting to paddle out and then the next thing I remember was being in the bottom of a lifeguard’s boat,” Scheidlinger noted.
Scheidlinger is lucky that Paula Reynolds was his surfing companion and buddy that morning, for she noticed that something was amiss with her friend who suddenly seemed unresponsive in the water.
This life and death situation occurred off surfing mecca Garbage Beach, a popular place to catch some waves off Sunset Cliffs.
Paula Reynolds, a friend since childhood and next door neighbor, told me that she “pulled Dave out of the water” and (onto his surfboard.)
She shouted for help, and two surfers– Tom Hadfield and Pier Moore – heard Paula and paddled over. They all helped to move the victim onto Tom’s larger surfboard. As Tom and Pier administered CPR, Paula “paddled in to make sure people on the Cliff heard me.”
She told me on Facebook that she did not call 911, but that she shouted at Cliffs bystanders to call for an ambulance. By the time Paula succeeded in paddling back out again, she joined the other 2 rescuers in helping to push Scheidlinger into swallow water. By then the lifeguard boat had arrived and medics were quickly on the scene.
Doctors told the group that it was the quick action they all took to keep the ill surfer from foundering in the ocean and the chest compressions administered on the surfboard while paddling to shore that saved Scheidlinger’s life. David Scheidlinger is a doctor, himself.
This past February 22, 2012, at the Masonic Lodge on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in Ocean Beach, an awards presentation honored the three Garbage Beach Heroes.
Chris Brewster, President of the U.S. Lifesaving Association, along with Greg Buchanan, San Diego Lifeguard District Lt., presented the “Heroic Act Award” to Paula Reynolds, Tom Hadfield and Pier Moore.
It is actions such as these that disapprove in many ways the aggression and bad vibes that can contaminate many crowded local surf breaks. Going out in the water with friends and companions is a wise move among surfers, especially under trying ocean conditions. This story of the Garbage Beach heroes is proof of the “buddy system” actually saving a life.
Only 5 such “Heroic Act Awards” are given out nationally per year. A now recovered David Scheidlinger and his family were also there to offer his thanks and congratulations to his courageous friends and lifesavers.