Lawrence M. Balma saved Ervin R. Nichols, Jr., from drowning, Manhattan Beach, California, March 1, 1963. Nichols, 20, student, and Balma, 18, student, took their surfboards into rough surf in the Pacific Ocean and paddled to 175 feet from shore, where breakers four feet high washed each from his board and submerged him briefly. Nichols, unable to make any progress shoreward because of a strong undercurrent, became fatigued and called for help. Balm swam 75 feet diagonally across the current and reached Nichols, who was sinking intermittently in deep water. Although Balm tried to evade his flailing arms, Nichols grasped him around the waist as a breaker submerged them. Balma broke free of Nichols under water and surfaced with him. Another breaker crashed over them, and Nichols again grasped Balma as they were submerged briefly. Nichols lost consciousness. Tiring rapidly from the cold water and his exertions, Balm towed Nichols 125 feet as some breakers submerged them briefly. He found footing and dragged Nichols the rest of the way to the beach. Balma administered artificial respiration to Nichols and partially revived him by the time a lifeguard arrived. Nichols recovered.
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