SEASIDE HEIGHTS – John DeVoe was enjoying some waves at dusk on the evening of July 7, not expecting that he’d be using his surfboard to save a life.
He and his friend, Thomas Picurro, had spent the morning from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Best Day Foundation. This is an event in Point Pleasant Beach where volunteers help special needs kids enjoy a day at the shore. That evening, they were at the beach near Kearney Avenue in Seaside Heights, but the conditions were rough. The red flags were out because the rip currents have been dangerous lately.
As he was paddling out, he saw Thomas struggling in the water with a swimmer. Thomas, 16, is a lifeguard, but wasn’t on duty. He attends Rutherford High School.
John, 14, isn’t a lifeguard, but that didn’t stop him from paddling over on his board. They helped the man steady himself so he could rest on the board.
“He was starting to go under, and he was panicking, and spitting up water,” he said. There was a language barrier, so it was hard to communicate to him what they needed him to do, he said.
Once they got him to a sand bar, it was shallow enough for him to walk, he said. As soon as he did, he fell right over. They carried him the rest of the way.
On the shore, the man’s relatives thanked the two teens. One of them spoke enough English to tell them how none of them were strong enough swimmers, and were afraid that they would drown if they went out to try to save him. They were looking for a lifeguard.
“I am extremely proud of John for being aware out there and taking action to help save this swimmer,” his mother, Tricia DeVoe, said. “There were other surfers out there at the time, but John was the one who saw what was happening and went to help Thomas rescue the man. Thomas did not have any flotation device and the rip current was very strong so he really needed assistance. I am really impressed with both of them. They did an amazing job in very difficult conditions, and they are just kids!”
After John and Thomas got the swimmer back to safety, they went back out surfing, she said. Then, by the time they were done, the swimmer was feeling better and invited them to play a little soccer.
Last summer, John’s older brother, Nikolas DeVoe, rescued swimmers as well. Nikolas was 14 at the time, same as John was this year. And he was also with Tom Picurro when they saw three people stuck in a rip current. Nikolas grabbed the closest person, while Tom rode his board out and brought one of them in. Nikolas then went back out for the third.
And then, that fall, he saw a couple out in the surf about 90 feet out that looked like they couldn’t make it to shore. The man made it to the beach, but Nikolas swam out and rescued the woman.