Newport lifeguards rescue 8 from rip current

Newport Beach lifeguards and a bystander rescued eight people from rough surf and fast-moving currents off the Balboa Peninsula this week.

About 5 p.m. Tuesday, lifeguard Michael Newmaster realized a strong rip current was forming near 15th Street and about to pull a group of bodyboarders out to sea.

Newmaster first yelled a warning to three who were close enough to the beach to stand and walk to shore.

As Newmaster then got ready to jump in the water, retired Newport Beach lifeguard Alan Buchanan offered to help.

The two grabbed flotation buoys and began swimming toward the distressed bodyboarders.

Buchanan rescued one of the victims, and Newmaster was able to reach three others and help them cling to the buoy.

When a second lifeguard, Mike Ure, arrived at the scene, he paddled a rescue board out to the final victim caught in the current.

He then swung around to help Buchanan and Newmaster take the four bodyboarders back toward the shore. They were pounded by a set of 5-foot waves before making it back to the beach.

Two of the victims were exhausted, and two were cold from the 58-degree water, lifeguards said.

The rescue was a common scenario for Newport Beach lifeguards, who tell swimmers caught in outgoing currents to swim parallel to the shore — out of the current — instead of fighting the water by paddling toward the beach, lifeguard Battalion Chief Jim Turner said.

Rip currents can be fueled by strong offshore gusts, such as this week's Santa Ana winds, Turner said.

"This was an excellent rescue," he said. "It was a solid job well done."

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