There are a number of touching posts, tributes, tweets, articles, and make-shift memorials mourning the loss of Ben Carlson yesterday, July 6th, 2014—all of them for an outstanding lifeguard killed in the line of duty.  I have few words that could elevate his esteem any further amongst lifeguards, save on the nature of that duty, so please, bear with me.

I was fortunate to be bodysurfing with my dear friend, Alan Buchanan, most of the afternoon.  We had smiles on our faces and, when big sets came through, we marveled at the display of power.  So much water moving—it was loud and tumultuous, and thrilling.  Hell yes it was dangerous.

But, here’s the thing.  As we walked ourselves down the beach to jump back into the water yet again, we got to notice how great all the lifeguards looked on that day (10th, Schoolyards, 15th, 17th, Point…).  To a person, the guards were just putting on a clinic of textbook lifeguarding—standing up, anticipating sets, out early, pulling hard, and putting in time in some ugly conditions.

Hearing the bow of 5342 slam down the back side of a 12’+ set, motors growling, we paused on shore to watch Ben doing his thing, his duty, just like all the rest.  He was smiling and doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing—keeping folks safe.

I’m glad I waved to Ben and said hello to all the guards working up and down the line; glad I overheard Alan compliment several guys going to or returning from a rescue; and glad to know so many fine men and women who engender such a strong sense of duty.  Godspeed, Ben.

4 thoughts on “Godspeed

  1. Well said Bob. As I’ve been reading every article I can find and most of the comments, the comments people write looking to blame the swimmer for Ben’s death bother me and your post makes it clear why.

    It turns out that we all lived for days like that day! Those guys were crushing it, doing exactly what they loved making a difference in heavy conditions. Not one of us who ever worked that stretch of beach would have missed a day like that.

    In my mind, Ben’s death was a tragic accident that happened to an amazing waterman who went out kicking ass. If there’s any blame to go around, blame us all for loving heavy water and being a part of something as important as helping others.

    • Thanks for weighing in on this Chris. I’ve been waiting on your commentary, which, as in the above, is unfailingly thoughtful and well written.

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