In 1977, Kip Jerger was awarded the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Medal of Valor for rescuing a fisherman off the rocks at White Point in San Pedro. Jerger was stationed at the Lifeguard tower overlooking the rocky point.
“Lifeguard Recurrent” magazine printed Jerger’s account of the rescue:
“There was a hurricane off of Mexico and the waves were 10-feet-plus with 20-foot faces crashing on the rocks. The time between sets was long — 15 to 20 minutes. A set started forming on the outside so I grabbed the megaphone and warned the fishermen to move off the rocks.
But a guy in a plaid shirt with a big Afro ran down the rocks to free his snagged fishing line. Then I heard a female scream. I grabbed the binoculars and spotted the man floating face down. I called Cabrillo headquarters for backup and hit the jetty, running barefoot across the jagged rocks. After diving in I grabbed the guy by the hair, pulled his face out of the water and rolled him over.
He was at least 230 pounds and foaming at the mouth. The first wave of a huge set broke on us. I lost my grip and we both crashed into the rocks. I grabbed him and lost him three more times during the set. Then I got pinned in an opening in the rocks. I was gasping for air. I finally got free and scrambled up the rocks.
When the water receded, I looked down and saw the fisherman’s plaid sleeve through a hole in the rocks. He was trapped in an underwater cave. I ducked down into the water, grabbed his arm and held him in place as the next set came in. ‘The lifeguard is drowning!’ I remember hearing someone scream.
I pulled him out of the front of the cave by grabbing one of his leather boots. As we were bobbing, I could feel another set on its way. I knew this was my last opportunity to get Wallace up on the rocks. His buddy didn’t know how to swim and that’s why he didn’t help when Wallace first fell in. He helped me pull Wallace onto the rocks. When we got Wallace to a safe spot, I started CPR.
“My back up, Kenny Atkins, arrived and took over CPR, and I began to treat Wallace’s numerous body lacerations. As I did this, I went into shock. LA City Fire arrived and Wallace and I were both transported to the hospital. I had a fractured elbow and crushed hip.
“The fisherman returned to White Point a few weeks later to say thanks and that he had no permanent injuries. I saw him return to fish a few times after that.”
For this and his many other rescues and for his lifetime of surfing and teaching surfing, Jerger will be inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame on Saturday, April 28, along with former pro surfer and former Body Glove marketing director Scott Daley and ‘60s era pro surfer Candy Woodward.
Jerger surfed Jeffreys Bay during the fabled winter of 1977 when Supertubes pumped for weeks, not dissimilar to the conditions during the 2017 Corona Open JBay.
“Only 50 people lived in the whole town. South African pro Shaun Tomson, a few other pros and us were the only surfers.
The surf was perfect 6 – 10 feet for a week.
Tomson, still says that was the best Jeffreys Bay he’s seen.
The day we left it was 8-foot and perfect with only one guy out. We were too tired to surf anymore,” Kip recalled:
Photo: Roy Harley