Daren Jenner was enjoying a perfect Hawaii day: warm weather, blue skies, peaceful perfection.
He was bodysurfing at Poipu Reef recently with a video camera strapped to a paddle on his hand when he heard a call for help. A man was struggling in the water, worried he would drown.
“You can just see the look on his face, that look of terror, that look that I think I’m … I think I’m dying,” Jenner, 55, said.
The California man, 52, was snorkeling offshore when he became exhausted and panicked. Jenner was the only person around, and also happened to be a retired paramedic and volunteer lifeguard. He was even featured on “Good Morning America” 11 years ago after helping to save a man from a heart attack.
As the man panicked, Jenner faced the dual task of pulling the man in, while at the same time trying to keep him calm.
“When you enter the ocean, you’re entering basically to the wild,” Jenner said. “You’re in there, anything can happen, this is mother nature.”
Snorkeling can be more dangerous than many tourists might imagine. Two California men in their 30s drowned two weeks ago while snorkeling off Hawaii’s coast.
Jenner stressed practicing caution and safety when going into the ocean.
“If you’re not familiar with the ocean, you should definitely try to go in a lifeguarded area,” he said. “If you go in a non-lifeguarded area, you need to be very careful that you don’t go out too far.”
In the case of this snorkeler, Jenner eventually came across a surfer, and they helped bring the man to safety. Paramedics met the man on the beach, who was tired and scared, but otherwise OK. Jenner is quick to deflect credit for the ocean rescue.
“I’m definitely not a hero,” he said. “The fulltime lifeguards, the rescue swimmers from the Coast Guard, those are heroes all right. I’m just a bodysurfer.”