… to Survive a Riptide.

as told to Kasey Cordell

IN MARCH, Matt Baker and seven friends headed out for a day of surfing near Depoe Bay. But when a riptide sucked them out to sea, their spring break adventure turned life-threatening—until the Coast Guard plucked them from the water.

GO WITH A GROUP Most of us hadn’t surfed before. It was a bit choppy, but we were in close to shore and knew about the undertow area. Half of us, like me, were on boogie boards.

WATCH THE WEATHER The weather seemed to come out of nowhere. The waves got bigger, the wind got stronger, and we recognized we were being pulled by the undertow toward the rocks. I thought, “Panic isn’t going to help. We need to swim diagonally toward the beach.” We struggled for probably 10 to 15 minutes when we realized we were going out to sea and there was nothing we could do about it.

DISTRACT YOURSELF The riptide shoved us up north, near Devil’s Punch Bowl. I felt like I was being swirled around in a wine glass. But the four of us were together, so it wasn’t so bad. We started making jokes; two friends started singing worship songs. Someone on the cliff yelled down that help was coming.

RIDE IT OUT The riptide had a rhythm to it: it’d bring us close to the rocks, then push us back out. The waves weren’t huge. Only a few would break on us. You could duck-dive through most of them. When you have that much adrenaline shooting through your body, you’re not really tired.

GIVE THANKS It’s a little bit movie-esque when you get pulled out of the water. My focus was on trying to be as cooperative as possible with the Coast Guard guy. Then you realize you’re flying 60 feet above the rocks. When we were back on the ground, we weren’t overly emotional, just thankful to him for getting us out of there.