US Coast Guard: saving lives since 1790 | Photo: Scott/Creative Commons

On February 12, 2023, the US Coast Guard (USCG) pulled three surfers out of the water at Agate Beach in Newport, Oregon.

Two of them were beginners from inland.

The other was former pro surfer Kirk Tice, who had just dragged the two boys to the rocks before their rescue.

Soon after, the Coast Guard responded quickly with two small boats and a helicopter to bring all three back to the beach.

"The swell was ginormous," said Adrian Fraser, assistant manager of Ossie Surf Shop, located right off the beach.

"They shouldn't have been out there."

Normally, Agate Beach has small rolling waves - perfect for beginners.

However, winter swell can be extremely dangerous. On Sunday, it was nine to eleven feet, with water and air temperatures in the low 50s °F (10 °C).

The two novices were caught inside, taking hit after hit by the powerful northwestern waves.

Their struggle was apparent as Tice quickly identified their situation and rushed over.

He worked tirelessly to help bring the two boys to the rocks on the Northern side of the beach.

Swift Rescue

A call from bystanders was placed to the Coast Guard at 2:00 pm.

Fifteen minutes later, two motor lifeboats were on the scene but unfortunately couldn't reach the surfers due to their proximity to the rocks.

At 2:50 pm, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter arrived and hovered above the surfers, lowering a rescue swimmer to retrieve them.

The aircrew took two trips from the rocks to the beach - first, making sure the two boys got back, then coming back for Tice, whose surf day was over.

Tice wasn't happy about this.

"When the chopper arrived, the coast guard swimmer said I had to go with them. I told the guy I was fine."

"He didn't listen even though I could have just walked up the goat trail and paddled back to where I had been surfing all day."

They forced him into the helicopter and brought him back to the beach alongside the people he had just helped rescue.

The Coast Guard reported that three people were saved on that day at Agate Beach.

Tice states that he will be filing a formal complaint with the USCG station, not only for forcing him to get out of the water but for false reporting.

While maintaining a presence along this stretch of beach, the Coast Guard only rescues about one to two people a year, as most locals like Tice know their limits.

Unfortunately, beginner surfers lack a fundamental understanding of the ocean and have not developed a healthy fear of the waves at Agate Beach, especially in the wintertime.

Three days ago, waves topped 20 feet.

Fraser hopes this incident raises awareness.

"You can't go past what you're capable of. Learn how to forecast waves and talk with locals," concluded Adrian.

"These two guys were so lucky to have a pro like Kirk Tice there and the Coast Guard's incredible rescue team."


Words by Max Van Rees | Surfer and Junior at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA)

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