Former lifeguard turned author recounts heroism along Sonoma Coast in latest work

Ed Vodrazka
(courtesy of Ed Vodrazka)

A former local lifeguard released a book that pays homage to a group of lifeguards who were recruited to patrol the notoriously dangerous Sonoma Coast.

Eleven lifeguards were recruited about 30 years ago to make those waters safer for swimmers. Ed Vodrazka, who last year retired as head lifeguard at Torrey Pines State Beach, shares their stories in a book called “One Guard Out: The Original Lifeguards of California’s Wild North Coast.”

"One Guard Out" is Ed Vodrazka's latest work.
(Courtesy of Osh McNulty)

“That’s what the book is in a nutshell, it’s the adventures of these 11 guards — and not only all the incredible rescues that they made to ultimately prove the detractors wrong — but it also chronicles their own issues with these heavy, heavy calls.”

Vodrazka said the book is based on interviews he conducted with almost all of the 11 lifeguards who were recruited, and other personnel who were sometimes present for the harrowing rescues they conducted. The conditions they were up against included 50-degree waters, strong currents and big waves that regularly took the lives of swimmers over the decades. Vodrazka said the lifeguards he interviewed have also struggled with symptoms of PTSD in the years after their service.

“The reason I wrote it is I just wanted them to be recognized,” Vodrazka said. “I wanted their friends and family to realize what they did and I want the general population to understand the greater role of lifeguards and what we contribute to emergency services.

“These guys remembered incredible details about these rescues that were consistent, even down to what people said, what victims said. It was a testament to the accuracy of what happened. It’s really easy to, when you write books about these swashbuckling tales, to exaggerate these things, but in corroborating virtually every story, it bore witness to what actually happened.”

Vodrazka, who lives in Del Mar, previously released a book called “Stories from Sea Level: The Heroic and Humorous Adventures of California’s Ocean Lifeguards,” which also details acts of heroism by California lifeguards through the years.

In his latest work, Vodrazka said he wanted to highlight the Sonoma Coast lifeguards for taking on an unprecedented assignment. Before they were enlisted, he said, rescue operations were limited to the sheriff’s helicopter.

“I just wanted to honor these guys because what they did was a remarkable thing,” Vodrazka said. “They truly changed the hand of fate. Many, many people would have drowned had it not been for their efforts.”

“One Guard Out: The Original Lifeguards of California’s Wild North Coast” is available on Amazon.