Iron Mike Paddle in memory of lifeguard set for Aug. 15 in Solana Beach


In memory of their fellow lifeguard, Solana Beach lifeguards are inviting the community to the third annual Iron Mike Paddle on Aug. 15 at Fletcher Cove.

The five-mile paddleboard race, surfing contest and outdoor festival is in honor of late Solana Beach lifeguard Mike McKay, who died when he was 23 in an avalanche at Mountain High Ski Resort in January 2008.

“We want to pay tribute to him and do something for the community,” said Solana Beach Marine Safety Sgt. Greg Uruburu, who served as McKay’s supervisor. “He was a real community-based guy.”

A longtime resident of Wrightwood, Calif., McKay was an emergency medical technician, lead ski patroller and lifeguard. He was pursuing his master’s degree in psychology at National University in La Jolla at the time of his death.

Launched in 2013, the Iron Mike Paddle is a celebration of McKay’s life and love of the outdoors. McKay was a natural athlete. He was an avid soccer player, surfer, hiker, mountain bike rider, rock climber and skier.

“He was a really down-to-earth, easily approachable guy,” Uruburu said. “He was always positive and always had a smile on his face. He was everyone’s friend.”

Although McKay was only a Solana Beach lifeguard for one season, his service left an impact on the department.

In the summer of 2007, McKay was honored as the department’s “Rookie of the Year.”

“For all of us supervisors, it was a no-brainer, right off the bat,” said Uruburu, an Encinitas resident who started with the Solana Beach department as a seasonal lifeguard in 2001.

“He was a genuinely good person and a genuinely good lifeguard,” he added. “He was the type of guy that makes the department what it is.”

Recipients of the annual award, now called the “Mountain Mike Rookie of the Year” in memory of McKay, receive a $500 scholarship from the Mike McKay Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit established by the McKay family. As in previous years, proceeds from the Iron Mike Paddle will benefit the foundation, which awards several scholarships annually.

Organized by the Solana Beach Lifeguard Association, Iron Mike Paddle will feature a paddleboard race, surf contest, awards ceremony, board swap, vendors, live music, raffle, food truck and beer garden. The free event, which is co-sponsored by the city of Solana Beach, Encinitas-based Paddle Planet and Rerip, a nonprofit that supports recycling old surfboards, starts at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 15 at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach.

For information, visit To register, visit

To learn more about the Mike McKay Memorial Foundation, visit