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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Student, lifeguard and instructor honored for saving surfer

Courtney Dohl, a City College surf student struggled for her life when she was hit by several waves 30 feet from shore at Ledbetter Beach.

On Feb. 14, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:50 p.m., Dohl was found face down 10 feet from shore by City College student Eddie Luparello. He rushed her out of the water and checked for breathing, then notified the lifeguard who performed CPR. Surf instructor Allison Slade called 9-1-1.

“It was pretty easy to spot her out, floating around in a foot of water with the board slightly over her,” Luparello said. “She was face up. I approached her slowly, and was calling out her name to see if she was okay.”

After the incident, Dohl explained what happened.

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“I was trying to paddle back out to be where my classmates were, so I was alone over there,” and she said, “A big wave charged at me and I started choking and couldn’t breathe. I tried to sit back up but another wave came and knocked me off my board, and my head slammed onto a rock.”

“After I called her a few times her body rolled over face down. As soon as I saw her face down I knew she was out cold. I ran in and pulled her out,” Luparello said. “I lifted her up, I remember looking up and I could see the teacher, I yelled for her.”

Luparello said the lifeguard, John Belter, spotted him with Courtney in his arms unconscious and ran over to help.

“I remember feeling the lifeguard who gave me CPR flip me over to the side so I could cough up water,” Dohl said.

Dohl was caught off guard by the wave conditions.

“We just need to be aware of the waves and how strong they are. There’s nothing wrong with stepping a wave out,” Dohl said, surfer slang that means to let the wave pass under you.

Dohl was not prepared for the strength of the waves.

“You don’t know when it’s going to happen, when it’s going to hit you,” she said. “It can happen to both professionals and beginners.”

After her incident, Dohl was sent to Cottage Hospital for a minor concussion with slight memory loss and was released the same day.

The City College surf class teaches water safety as well as how to surf. According to the SBCC catalogue of 2007, the class is “designed to teach the fundamentals of board surfing and provide beginning, intermediate and advanced surfers the opportunity to safely develop the skills to ride waves. Analysis of paddling, wave selection, water safety, equipment, tides and surfing etiquette are emphasized. Students must be able to swim 100 yards non-stop and tread water for five minutes.”

Even though Dohl was shaken by the incident, it didn’t stop her from continuing the class.

“A lot of people were surprised I got back in the water right after I got back from the hospital,” she said. “I was a little nervous, but my philosophy is: feel the fear and do it anyways.”

On April 1st, at 2 p.m., Eddie Luparello, John Belter and Allison Slade were all honored by the City Council for saving Courtney Dohl’s life.

“We arrived, walked up into the hall and sat down while we waited for all the council members to sit,” Luparello said. “After the speech they gave each of us a resolution, which is a proclamation from the mayor saying what we did.”

-Ashlyn Cabouli is a Journalism 101 student.

Click play to view the event honoring the rescuers

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