When Ricky George headed out to surf on May 16th, he expected it to be like any other Saturday spent surfing with friends on Tybee Island. But shortly after hitting the water, Ricky realized the currents were too rough. He was swimming back to shore to exit the water near 18th Street when he saw a sight that would change his life.
“I saw this kid, just getting sucked out to sea,” the Tybee Island resident said.
Fighting the rough waves and undercurrents, Ricky swam over to the young boy and tried to grab him. But between the rough surf and the drag of his surfboard, which was still tethered to his ankle, Ricky struggled to get them both to safety. He made a split decision to ditch the surfboard and swim for shore.
“I just grabbed that kid and trucked it,” he said. As soon as his feet hit soft sand, he knew they would be ok. The distressed swimmer turned out to be an 8-year old boy from Macon, Ga. Despite some cuts and bruises, both Ricky and the boy were unharmed. The boy’s mother was relaxing on her beach blanket quite a distance away, unaware of her son’s near drowning ordeal. When she was reunited with her son, she was emotional and grateful to her son’s rescuer.
After the event, Ricky was a surfer without a surfboard, having sacrificed it to the sea in exchange for a young boy’s life. For him there was never any question about the right thing to do.
But replacing his surfboard was harder than he imagined. Those in his price range, similar to the one he'd lost, were sold out everywhere he searched online.
Word of Ricky’s courageous act reached Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions and it was clear to her what needed to be done. She worked with Tybee Island Fire Chief Matt Harrell, and together with a local surf shop, they helped Ricky get a new surfboard.
Mayor Sessions said she was moved to act because Ricky's selflessness shows why Tybee Island is so special and beloved by many.
“He’s an example of how we care about residents and visitors who are here, even willing to put our lives on the line,” she said.
Fire Chief Matt Harrell said he was grateful for Ricky’s bravery, and happy to help replace the damaged surfboard.
“We can’t be there all the time,” Harrell said. “It’s nice to know that there are others out there that we can rely on.”
As for Ricky, he’s loving his new board. “We went surfing today,” he said. “It’s a dream. I love it.”