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happyworld - When A Group Of Surfers Saw Two Swimmers In Trouble, They Faced An Impossible Choice

It’s November 2019, and four young surfers are enjoying a day together at the beach. But after stepping away from the waves for a quick break, the group then catch sight of something in the water. Two swimmers are struggling to keep themselves afloat, leaving the teenagers with a very difficult decision to make.
For some people, there are few things more relaxing than spending time out in the sea. Whether they’re swimming or surfing, these activities can be incredibly enjoyable if the conditions are just right. The aforementioned teens know all about that, as they took to the water on Veterans Day in 2019.
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Image: Eva York/The Washington Post via Newsela
The group was made up of four boys named Adrian York, Narayan Weibel, Taj Ortiz-Beck and Spenser Stratton. They were all high school students at the time, sharing a real love of soccer and surfing. Alongside that, Stratton, York and Weibel showed interest in another activity, too, as we’re about to discover.
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York was a qualified lifeguard, while Stratton and Weibel had done some training in the field over the summer. So on that note, they looked to put their skills to the test on that fateful day in November 2019 when they spotted the struggling swimmers. Yet due to the conditions, the teens had to make a rather terrifying choice.
For those of us who like to keep our fitness levels up, swimming can be a worthwhile option. After all, a few laps around a pool can do wonders for our bodies in the long run. But if given a choice, not everyone would opt for a trip to their local baths. There are those who look for an alternative option to an indoor dip.
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Indeed, some individuals might prefer to travel down to a nearby beach and take a swim in the sea. Compared to the controlled environment of a swimming pool, the open water can present more of a challenge, thanks to the ever-changing conditions. Keeping that in mind, though, you also need to be aware of the dangers that come with it.
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One of the biggest threats to your safety in the ocean comes from something called a rip current. This type of water current causes problems for lifeguards across America throughout the year, as unsuspecting swimmers can get caught in them. From there, they have to be careful as to what they do next.
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Given the dangers that rip currents pose, the National Ocean Service revealed more about them via its official website. In addition to that, the agency also noted what swimmers should do if they find themselves in the grip of one. As it turns out, you have to stop yourself from doing the obvious thing in that situation.
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The post read, “Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet-per-second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer.”
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“Panicked swimmers often try to counter a rip current by swimming straight back to shore,” the post continued. “[Which puts them] at risk of drowning because of fatigue.” At that point, the National Ocean Service then offered up some advice, while sharing an eye-opening bit of information on the subject as well.
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The post added, “Lifeguards rescue tens of thousands of people from rip currents in the U.S. every year, but it is estimated that 100 people are killed by rip currents annually. If [you’re] caught in a rip current, don’t fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle.”
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Unfortunately for one family, their patriarch suffered a tragic fate in the water over the summer of 2019. For you see, Fred Pepperman was on holiday with his relatives in Florida during that period. A resident of Tennessee, he and his wife, Julie, were the proud parents of four daughters named Mallory, Kathryn, Grace and Olivia.
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Fred’s family eventually traveled to one of the local beaches in Seacrest. The dad then relaxed on the sand alongside his sister-in-law. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter, Grace, took to the sea, and she was soon pulled away by what’s known as a riptide. This can be confused with a rip current, but the two aren’t the same.
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The National Ocean Service’s website then explained the subtle dissimilarities. “While the terms are often confused, rip currents are different than riptides,” the post read.” A riptide is a specific type of current associated with the swift movement of tidal water through inlets and the mouths of estuaries, embayments and harbors.” Regardless of the distinctions, though, Grace was in real danger.
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Due to Grace’s struggles, her sisters Kathryn and Olivia tried to bring her back to shore, only for the riptide to grab them, too. At that stage, Fred realized that something was wrong. He then left his seat on the beach and dived into the water. Despite the risks, the Tennessee resident finally managed to reach his daughters.
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Fred then dragged the three girls up from below the water, and helped put them on a flotation device. However, the father-of-four had to exert all of his energy to save the trio from tragedy, causing him to lose consciousness. In the end, all four swimmers were brought back to the beach, but he passed away soon after.
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Following Fred’s untimely passing, his wife took to social media. There, she shared a heartfelt message with her friends and family. Julie was also in the water while her husband tried to save their daughters, so she got a firsthand look at his bravery. On that note, the mom-of-four couldn’t help but laud his heroic display, despite the devastating outcome.
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“Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers,” Julie wrote on Facebook in July 2019. “[At] around 12:30 p.m. on July 14, 2019, Fred Pepperman gave his life to save his family. If it wasn’t for his efforts, Grace and Olivia definitely would have been lost and Kathryn and myself probably would have been lost.”
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Julie continued, “[Fred] was amazing, selfless, tireless and committed to making sure we were all out of the water. Once we were safe, he was simply too exhausted to worry about himself. His body was worn out.” The mother then shared some more kind words about her partner, before making a heartbreaking revelation.
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As the Facebook post went on, Julie reiterated that Fred was a selfless individual throughout their time together. She was introduced to her future husband during her teenage years, with their relationship blossoming over the next three decades. In fact, they were set to celebrate a landmark occasion a few days after the tragedy.
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“Next Friday, the 26th, would have been our 28th wedding anniversary,” Julie explained. “[Fred] was my love and a wonderful father to our children. You did good, Freddie. Our girls are safe. You saved your family. You are a good man, through and through. We love you and our hearts are breaking!”
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Julie’s emotional Facebook post then came to a close, drawing a big reaction on social media. Indeed, her words earned over 1,400 likes and more than 175 shares, while also generating close to 600 comments. The huge online response didn’t end there, though, as we’re about to find out.
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A short time after Julie posted that message on Facebook, a GoFundMe page was started for the family. Much like the aforementioned post, this page included a touching tribute to Fred and his heroic efforts from that horrible day. Alongside that, it also explained why the fundraiser had been set up.
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“Freddy was the true embodiment of integrity, honor and selflessness,” the post read. “He died for the greatest purpose in life, his children. We are setting up this page as a tribute to a great man, and also to hopefully assist his wife in putting the girls through school and college.”
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In keeping with that, the page had a $50,000 goal, which was eventually surpassed thanks to more than 570 donations. As it stands, over $52,000 has been raised, with people looking to do their part in helping the family. Meanwhile, another water current tragedy threatened to occur a few months later.
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Image: TrinidadMike
As we previously mentioned, a group of young surfers were enjoying the waves on Veterans Day in 2019. And following a couple of hours in the water, Adrian York, Taj Ortiz-Beck, Narayan Weibel and Spenser Stratton eventually settled on Trinidad State Beach. This picturesque area can be found in the north of California.
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The conditions were somewhat foggy at the time, as Weibel, Stratton, York and Ortiz-Beck took a quick break. Yet while the teenagers were chilling out, they heard a rather troubling noise from the water. Given the fog, they couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of the sound to begin with, but that soon changed.
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Before long, York and his three friends spotted two people in the water, struggling to stay afloat. They were, as it turned out, caught in a rip current and couldn’t escape its pull. Due to the pair’s predicament, the high school students needed to make a big decision about what to do, especially after what happened in Florida that summer.
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Thankfully for the swimmers, though, York and company didn’t take long in making their choice. The former had already earned his stripes as a qualified lifeguard, while Stratton and Weibel gained some experience from a previous course. As a result of that, they looked to put their skills to the test.
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Speaking to The Washington Post newspaper, Weibel recalled the moment when his friends decided to help. He said, “We all looked at each other and knew these guys were about to drown.” From there, he made his way over to the two swimmers with Ortiz-Beck and Stratton, while York stayed behind.
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Unaware of the duo’s condition, York got the attention of someone on the beach, asking them to contact the emergency services. While he did that, his three friends finally reached the stricken swimmers, who turned out to be brothers. And unlike Ortiz-Beck, Stratton and Weibel, they weren’t dressed in wet-suits, which added to the issue.
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“We told [the brothers], ‘Calm down – we got you!’” Weibel continued. “Being out in that cold water without a wet-suit is like taking an ice bath. They were having a hard time keeping their heads above water and thought they were going to die.” Both he and Stratton then attended to the older sibling, leaving Ortiz-Beck with the younger guy.
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Image: Eva York via North Coast Journal
In the end, Weibel, Stratton and Ortiz-Beck were joined by York in the water, as he helped them back to the beach. The rescue was fairly swift, and the brothers returned to their concerned family unharmed. As for how this happened, the pair swam a fair distance from the shore, which led to the rip current taking hold.
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Image: Eva York via North Coast Journal
Following that dramatic day, a fellow California lifeguard named Dillon Cleavenger shared his thoughts on the situation. He had formed part of the group that answered the initial call from the beach, and assisted the teenagers once they returned with the stricken swimmers. According to Cleavenger, the brothers were incredibly fortunate.
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“The water was a chilly 51 degrees,” Cleavenger told The Washington Post in November 2019. “And because [the brothers] weren’t particularly strong swimmers, they weren’t able to stay afloat. When we get a call like this one, it’s usually too late by the time we get there. People can get hypothermia and drown out here in seconds.”
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Cleavenger then switched his focus back to the four teenagers who initiated the rescue on Trinidad State Beach. He was quick to lavish them with some high praise, especially after discovering that York, Stratton and Weibel were interested in the lifeguard profession. Yet his thoughts on the matter didn’t end there.
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“There’s no doubt in my mind those guys would have drowned without [the surfers’] quick intervention,” Cleavenger added. “To find out they’ve been through our lifeguard program ‒ we’re all really proud of them. I can’t say enough about what these boys did. They were willing and prepared to risk their lives.”
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Furthermore, one of the surfer’s parents also spoke up following the rescue, offering their perspective. Stratton’s mom, Jacqueline, told the publication, “We have all raised our sons to be respectful and mindful of the ocean. And [we] are glad that they were at the right place at the right time.”
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As for Stratton himself, he was taken aback by the kind words that came his way, much like the rest of the group. In his mind, their actions on that day weren’t out of the ordinary. The teenager explained, “If it were me out there in trouble, I know that somebody else would have done the same.”
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Yet while Stratton and company were reluctant to accept the adoration, one comment on The Washington Post’s website summed everything up. The user wrote, “Way to go guys! Kudos for your training to know what to do, your cool heads, your love of and respect for the ocean, and your families’ good parenting. May good karma follow you always!”

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