Steve Bowker of Harbor knows what it’s like to almost drown, so when he heard a kid screaming from the ocean at Sporthaven Beach Sunday, he immediately sprang into action.
It was mid-day and high tide. Two small boys had been playing by the water’s edge. Bowker was sitting in his truck going through some fishing gear when he heard the child scream.
“I saw one kid past his knees, and then another wave came and all I saw was a hand, a foot and another hand,” Bowker related. “I’m already running, another wave was coming up and it was going to take him, no doubt about it. That one last wave would’ve got him. I would have been swimming for him. It was a close one.”
Bowker grabbed the boy as he scrabbled in the sand, pulled him from the water and threw him over his shoulder.
“About halfway up the beach, he sputtered that he was all right,” Bowker said. “One more wave would’ve licked him.”
The boy was accompanied by another small boy Bowker assumes was his brother. The mother was on the sidewalk above the sand.
“She just wasn’t paying attention,” Bowker said, acknowledging emergencies can happen instantaneously. “She’ll pay attention from now on, and that’s what’s important.”
The boy, who Bowker estimated to be 8 or 9 years old, was taken by ambulance to be treated for hypothermia. Bowker never got his name.
But it brought back memories of when he was in first grade and at the beach in San Francisco with his babysitter.
“I was just playing on the beach and tackled by a wave,” he said. “It freaked me out. I remember almost giving up. It scared me. ... It was all I could think about (this) time.”
He doesn’t consider himself to be a hero, saying others would’ve done the same.
“One of the ambulances and the mother stopped by and thanked me,” Bowker said. “That was enough for me.
“I was just happy to be there,” he said. “It wasn’t a crowded beach; maybe three or four cars were parked in the area. I wouldn’t have done what I did if it didn’t need to be done. But … in a heartbeat. In a heartbeat.”
The incident reiterated to him, too, how deceptive the ocean can be — and the adage that people on the beach should never, ever turn their back on the ocean.
People are also encouraged to keep an eye on their dogs, particularly those who like to chase birds. Many times, a dog goes into the water and the owner chases after it when the animal gets in trouble.
A dog that is left to fend for itself often makes it back to shore unscathed, history has shown. But people who chase their animals into the ocean often die.
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org