Professional paddleboarder saves surfer

Kaanapali resident Don Rickerd couldn’t have sent out a better man to rescue a paddleboarder in distress Monday morning in Napili.

As Rickerd peered through binoculars to see a man lose his board then struggle in 10-foot waves and stormy seas, he yelled to the “young kid” nearby who was preparing to go into the water.

“‘You need to go out there. You need to go out right now,'” Rickerd remembers telling the “kid.”

He watched the young man jump off the reef near Napili Point and paddle out through “big giant sets.”

Right before the young man reached the man in distress, someone on the beach told Rickerd that the good Samaritan was professional stand-up paddleboarder Zane Schweitzer.

Rickerd, a paddleboarder himself, immediately recognized the name and called it a “miracle.”

“It was almost like a relief. . . .

There’s not many guys that could have paddled very fast and very quick to save that guy’s life. That’s why I believe he’s (Schweitzer) an absolute hero,” Rickerd said Tuesday.

Rickerd said it would have taken him maybe 10 minutes longer to make the 350-yard paddle through heavy surf and that might have been too late to save the man.

“This guy was on his last breath,” Rickerd said of the victim.

A day after saving a man’s life, Schweitzer was modest about his deed, saying he couldn’t have done it without Rickerd.

“I probably wouldn’t have noticed (the victim) was out there,” Schweitzer said.

“It was definitely a good way to start the day,” said the 20-year-old Kahana resident, who was born and raised on Maui.

Schweitzer said that the man in distress, whom he only knows as “Aaron,” had his leash break and lost his board.

The victim also was getting sucked out farther into the channel waters.

“He was definitely looking like he was having a hard time keeping himself up,” Schweitzer said. “When I got close to him, he looked a little panicked.”

Schweitzer put his leash onto the victim’s ankle, so that at least he was connected to a board. He then swam about 200 yards to get the man’s board, because he needed it to bring the man in.

“It would have been hard to pull him in” with one board, Schweitzer said.

The professional surfer let the man catch his breath, and then the two paddled to calmer waters near the Kahana Sunset condominiums and got out of the water.

“By the time I came in, I heard the fire engines and the ambulances going down the coast. I figure they might have been looking for this guy,” Schweitzer said.

Eventually, he was able to flag down the first responders.

The two men did not require medical attention, according to Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga, who said that two crews from Napili went to assist in the incident reported at 6:46 a.m. Monday.

There was no information on the victim.

“When you lose your board in those conditions it can be rough for sure,” Schweitzer said. “It was lucky that Don was on the point keeping an eye on the surfer. . . . It was definitely a close one for Aaron.”

Schweitzer said that the victim was fit but probably did not have a leash that was strong enough to be in the stormy conditions that included rip currents.

Since he has been surfing all of his life, including in those waters, Schweitzer said he knows the area and used the currents to work for him while paddling out to save the man.

Monday was not a good day to be out on the ocean without a partner either, Schweitzer said, though he admitted that he had planned to go out alone before teaching a surf lesson that day.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at