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Jersey Shore surfer whose 20-foot wipeout went viral helps rescue struggling swimmer

Temperatures were 85 degrees on the sand and 50 degrees in the water on Monday, April 29 - a potentially deadly combination.

Jim Murdoch

May 6, 2024, 9:38 PM

Updated 16 days ago


A Jersey Shore surfer whose wipeout was seen around the world can now add lifesaver to his resume of fame. It comes as the warm season got off to a deadly start at New Jersey’s beaches.
A 23-year-old man from Belleville went swimming on Saturday at St. Clair Avenue Beach in Spring Lake when he got in trouble and drowned.
A few days earlier, surfer Brendan Tighe, who fell 20 feet off a wave, was at the right place, at the right time, while catching waves in Belmar.
"I never surf this beach. It was really crowded. Everybody was taking advantage of no badge checkers and the beautiful weather," said Tighe.
Temperatures were 85 degrees on the sand and 50 degrees in the water on Monday, April 29 - a potentially deadly combination. But Tighe, still sore from his fall last December, happened to be nearby.
"I heard somebody screaming loudly for help like 200 yards away from me," he said. Images captured that day show Tighe paddling toward the struggling man, getting him up on his surfboard and safely getting him to shore.
"I can confidently say if I wasn't there, it would have been a lot different of a story,” Tighe said.
"You come on the beach - it’s 85 degrees, it’s hot. You are automatically attracted to the water. The water is cold, your body is hot. The water is cold and that’s a recipe for hypothermia," said Belmar chief lifeguard Harry Harsin.
Harsin and his Belmar crew just started getting ready for this upcoming season, but it comes with a warning following the numerous rescues from last week and Saturday's death in Spring Lake.
"It always weighs heavily because God forbid you don’t want anyone to lose their life ever. Spring, summer, winter, fall - you don’t want that to happen. We do the best we can try to provide the best coverage we can but just use common sense that’s all we ask," said Harsin.
As for Tighe's save, the man refused medical treatment and was able to go home thanks to Tighe’s skills.
"Just be careful. Know your limits. If you can't swim well in a pool, it's not a great idea to swim in the ocean. Just be careful - it's a giant body of water that people take for granted," Tighe added.
Spring Lake Chief Lifeguard Tony Hipsley wants to further emphasize the warning so often heard this time of year - if you don't know what you're doing and lifeguards are not there, stay on the sand. Be smart and go home alive.

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