Surfers to the rescue

5:05 AM, Aug 8, 2011   |    comments
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Grand Haven

GRAND HAVEN, (WZZM) - Matt Smolenski grew up on Lake Michigan surfing and seeing a lot of near drownings from rip currents.

"I've swam my whole life, some days I wouldn't want to be out there without my board, my board is my safety net."

On Sunday, Smolenski was in Grand Haven for the Surfboard Rescue Techniques Class.

"I already made a lot of rescues on my board, looking to pick up some tips maybe I hadn't thought of."

Water safety expert Bob Pratt says it's common for surfers to rescue swimmers from rip currents.

"Whenever the waves are big enough to surf on, are when rip currents occur. I'm trying to educate surfers how to use boards as rescue devices in the event they need to."

Pratt says the need for this class is more important than ever. There are dwindling lifeguard numbers-- and a total of 74 drownings on the great lakes last year.

Pratt says, "It's very common. Anytime you have waves greater than a foot or two you have potential to have rip currents."

Most people about to drown don't wave or scream-- but are silent-- vertical-- with their head back. Pratt says that's when it's time to act with a board of any kind, or things that float.

Smolenski says he's proof-- it works.

"It feels great when you can help someone in, and you don't have to think about what could have happened."

If you're caught in a rip current don't try to swim into shore. Instead swim parallel with the beach until the current's pull is weak, then swim in.

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