Surfers and lifeguards teamed up to save a surfer's life Sunday at San Clemente State Beach after the surfer fell, hitting the bottom head first.
"Those guys are my heroes," 44-year-old Duane Yost of San Clemente said Tuesday after being released from Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.
He said he blacked out underwater, came to beneath the surface and realized he was unable to move.
"I thought I was going to die," he said.
A surfer nearby saw it happen and paddled over. It so happened that the surfer, Clint Brown, was an off-duty paramedic.
Meanwhile, about 70 lifeguards had gathered for a 7:30 a.m. meeting in the state park's campfire center when a call came in about a possible drowning.
"Everyone just started taking off," lifeguard Brian Staudenbaur said. "It was a pretty crazy scene."
A dozen or so lifeguards hit the water, rushing to help as surfers Brown, Matthew Downey and Tara Parsons kept Yost afloat on Parsons' bodyboard, stabilizing his back and neck.
Yost "was really lucky those three were there to help," Staudenbaur said.
"It was a group effort," said Brown, an Aliso Viejo resident who works for Care Ambulance. He floated Yost out to sea, past the surf zone, where Downey and Parsons joined in.
"I laid on my back and got behind and under him," Brown said. "Luckily he had a wetsuit on. He floated pretty well."
Brown, Downey and Parsons stabilized Yost, sending another surfer ashore to call for help. Yost regained movement in his arms and said he could feel his legs but couldn't move them, Brown said.
Lifeguards put Yost in a collar and on a backboard, calling for a sheriff's Harbor Patrol boat. Paramedics took Yost to the hospital from Dana Point Harbor.
On Monday, he was reportedly able to walk.
"That's awesome," Brown said. "I'm glad he's fine."
Yost said his spinal cord was bruised and he was in pain Tuesday, but the prognosis is for full recovery. He plans to surf again.
"My guardian angels and lucky stars were aligned," Yost said. "It couldn't have gone down any better. I can't put into words how grateful I am. Everybody was awesome."
Lifeguards work during Sunday's rescue of a surfer at San Clemente State Beach.