Richard Henry Becker saved Zayre S. Johnson from drowning, Mendocino, California, January 18, 2011. Zayre, 17, entered Mendocino Bay of the Pacific Ocean to surf, but his board broke in two in the rough seas, and he abandoned it. Rather than attempt to return to shore against a strong outward current, he turned toward a cove at the far end of the bay. Becker, 31, teacher, had also gone to the bay to surf but decided against it because of the strong winds and 14-foot waves. From atop the headlands overlooking the bay, he watched Zayre and concluded that he was at risk of being swept away, into the treacherous area of waves breaking against the rocky cliffs near the cove. After donning a wet suit and telling others at the scene to call for help, Becker entered the bay with his surfboard and paddled out toward Zayre, but the glare of the setting sun prevented him from spotting Zayre. Firefighters arrived and from atop a cliff directed Becker toward him. Becker reached Zayre after paddling about 2,000 feet out from shore. He directed Zayre to lie atop him on the surfboard and then, with Zayre kicking, Becker paddled toward the cove. Their progress was slow. Negotiating the breakers at the cove, they reached shore, Becker nearly exhausted. Zayre was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia. Becker suffered sore muscles for a day and recovered.
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