Editor Adam Hunter talks about the mysterious series of events that led to this pro surfer serving double-duty as a life saver.
If there’s one thing I learned from last week’s blog story, it’s that anybody can be a hero—even a 9-year-old boy. But a story I read this week reminded me that sometimes heroes may need a little help getting where they need to be. Is it luck, coincidence or something else that delivers the right person to the right place at just the right time?
James Pribram was in Canada on a business trip. A pro surfer, he earns his living as a company ambassador for various youth-and-sports-oriented companies, and also spends time teaching schoolchildren to take good care of the ocean environment. The ocean is his church, he's fond of saying. He had three days left before he was due to fly home to California.
But something was tugging at him. He couldn’t escape a nagging feeling that he had to be at home—it couldn’t wait three days. His mother had recently fallen and suffered an injury, and although it wasn’t life-threatening, maybe she needed his help. All he knew was that he had a feeling he needed to go see her. And it had to be now. James wrapped up his work early and booked an immediate flight home.
A day later, in Laguna Beach, California, 22-year-old Maira Khan was walking along Pearl Street Beach with her friend Meghan and younger brother Aadil. Maira was careful not to venture too far into the water—she’d never learned how to swim.
Instead, she admired the towering cliffs lining the coastline, the giant boulders and dramatic sandstone arches carved by tides for millennia. She and Meghan snapped some photos. Maira stepped out onto a shallow reef, climbed up one of the larger rocks and turned her back to the ocean, posing for a great shot.
That’s when the wave hit. It slammed into Maira, sweeping her from the rock and tossing her like a piece of driftwood.
Bam! She was thrown into a rock as another wave tugged her under. The reef tore at her arms and legs as she struggled to stay afloat.
The waves had caught them all by surprise. Meghan was knocked over, but managed to scramble to higher ground. Aadil looked on in horror, not sure what he could do.
Just then, a tall figure sprinted towards them, gliding across the sand in his bare feet. He paused briefly to asses the situation and then ran straight into the water, unperturbed by the sharp rocks, muscles and reef just below the surface. He dove into the grinding surf, grabbed Maira around the waist and pulled her safely to shore. Paramedics arrived soon after. “Take care,” the man said, and left the scene as quickly as he’d arrived.
Who was Maira’s mystery hero? As soon as she regained her composure, Maira asked if anyone around had recognized him. “He’s a pro surfer,” she was told. “You can look him up on the internet.”
“His name is James Pribram.”
When she got home, Maira looked James up. She discovered he’d rescued swimmers two times before. It was only after emailing James that she discovered the story of her rescue was more amazing than she knew.
That afternoon, James had brought his mother lunch. They went outside to eat on her balcony—which overlooked Pearl Street Beach. The same beach where he’d first learned to surf. A beach he knew better than anyone.
When he saw Maira, and the approaching waves, he knew what was about to happen.
“Call 911,” he told his mother. He ran down to the beach...and saved Maira’s life.
Was it only concern for his mom that brought James home early? Or did his “church” call him home for a different reason?
We know how Maira’s family feels. To thank their hero, they presented James a clock—with the word "angel" engraved on it.