Eric W. Edwards rescued Orlando A. Villalobos from drowning in Watsonville, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2015.
Villalobos, 37, was swimming in the Pacific Ocean when he was caught in a rip current and carried away from shore.
Edwards, 39, off-duty firefighter and emergency medical technician from Lodi, Calif., entered the 55-degree water with a boogie board and swam in the 6-foot swells toward Villalobos, the boogie board pulled away and recovered several times.
When Edwards reached him he extended the board to Villalobos, who was barely above the surface of the water. Villalobos grasped the board and, with Edwards kicking, the men moved with difficulty in the rough conditions toward shore.
When they reached wadable water others came out and carried Villalobos from the water. Edwards exited on his own and collapsed on the beach.
Villalobos was treated at a hospital for mild hypothermia, from which he recovered. Edwards also sustained mild hypothermia and was nearly exhausted. He was treated at the scene and recovered.