Laguna Beach

LBHS student saves life of mother & son caught in rip current after taking lifeguard SALT class


Laguna Beach High School sophomore Gavin Pike, 15, had no idea that his routine after school chill time in the surf would turn into a heroic rescue when he went to Thalia Street Beach on Thursday, Nov 14. 

“My mom picks me up from the beach around 3:30 p.m. So I just walk down there after school,” Gavin said. “I just got ready and into my swim trunks. I like to stop there for a little bit to enjoy time after a long day of school.”

Soon after arriving to the beach last Thursday, Gavin looked out and saw a mom with her son go out in the water. 

“First, they seem like they’re fine, that they’re kind of inside the water area. But suddenly, I notice they started getting sucked out in a rip current,” Gavin said.

He attributes his life-saving acumen to what he learned from Laguna Beach Marine Safety Surfers Awareness and Lifeguard Training (SALT) in lifeguard techniques a few weeks prior, as part of the LBHS surf team.

“Through SALT, they taught us how rip currents are, how you can identify them, and how to see when someone is caught in one,” Gavin said.

LBHS student Gavin Rescue

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Photo by Jesse Pike

LBHS sophomore Gavin Pike saves a mother and son caught in rip tide

The situation in the water that day grew more dire. Gavin, as well as people on the beach, also seemed to notice the mother and son were getting sucked out too far.

“They were showing signs of getting caught in a rip,” Gavin said. “They were trying to swim in, but every single time they tried to swim in, they were getting sucked out farther.”

The mom’s oldest son, approximately in his 20s, ran out from the beach because he saw his mom needed help. 

“So he ran out to try and help them. As he was going out, the younger brother [approximately 13] was also getting sucked out, but was able to get in on his own,” Gavin said. “So, the older brother, he swam out to his mom, which was probably a good 40 yards out. And they kept getting stuck out farther in the rip.”

That’s when Gavin started walking down toward the water to see what was going on.

“People started getting up from the beach because they saw it started turning into an actual drowning situation,” Gavin said. 

“That’s when I jumped in and swam out to them.

“By the time he got out there, the son was barely able to keep her head out of the water,” Gavin said. “The most important thing is just keeping their mouth, nose, and head above water, so they don’t drown and suffocate in the water.”

“When I got out to her, she was hyperventilating and he was in a state of shock seeing his mom drowning,” Gavin said. “He probably would have drowned himself just trying to keep his mom alive because he wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to save her on his own.”

Gavin tried to calm her down and helped keep her head above water. 

“When I was out there, I was able to grab her and support her, and I was able to keep her up. So the son was able to get his breath back,” Gavin said. 

He instructed the son to grab one side of her while he grabbed the other side, and they started pulling her in. 

“We kind of just pulled her in together,” Gavin said. “I was transporting her, calming her down, telling her that everything was going to be ok, and that she needed to breathe. When we finally got to the shore, she just collapsed and fell onto the sand face first.”

That’s when the lifeguards showed up and provided medical aid.

From his SALT training, Gavin had a clearer picture of the situation at hand. He discerned the tide was already very low, which can be deceiving. 

“What kind of happens then is that people that don’t know the ocean very well will think that they can walk out farther than they usually can because the water is at a lower level,” Gavin said. “But once you get past a certain point, suddenly it drops, where you can’t touch the ocean floor anymore.”

He said once someone loses their ability to touch their feet to the floor they can get in trouble.

Gavin explained, “The current comes from two sides of the ocean coming onto the shore. They collide and suck in together when they get on the shore. So instead of a normal amount of water coming in and sucking out, it’s double the strength sucking back out.”

Gavin said he’s grateful for what he learned during the LBHS surf team’s SALT training. He knew it would come in handy.

“Mostly because I am out in the surf a lot. Just having those tips, that if a situation does come, and you do end up needing to help someone, it was a lot of good information to know,” Gavin said.

The keys are to know how to handle the situation, calm down the person who is drowning, know how to bring them in, and notice when someone is in trouble.

“Before, I never understood what a rip current was either. It helped me notice one and see when someone’s caught in one,” Gavin said.

His brother Gordon is a Laguna Beach Lifeguard and started when he was a junior in high school. Now he’s a junior in college. Gavin said he wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

“I was planning on trying out this year. It’s something I’m definitely interested in,” Gavin said. “During the save, I realized that I like to help people.”

His family is proud of him, as is his brother Gordon. 

“He’s super proud of me. He didn’t realize I had it in me,” Gavin said.

LBHS girls basketball season kicks off with victory

Basketball season is once again upon us, and the Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) girls basketball team played its first game yesterday, securing a hard-fought victory on the road, 35-14, over Santa Rosa Academy.

The game started out rough for us with bad shooting and first game jitters. We were down 2-11 midway through the second quarter. We finally got a little something going to end the quarter with a 9-0 run and finish the first half tied 11-11. In the second half we settled down and took control with a 16-2 third quarter and 24-3 second half,” said LBHS girls basketball Coach Matthew Tietz.

It was a balanced scoring effort: Kenna Rudolph finished with 11 points, Madi Garwal with 5, Julia Henry with 5, Anna Cheng with 4, Sabrina Yang with 4, Autumn Moreland with 4, and Laila Hassan with 2.

Coach Matthew Tietz, who is in his fourth year of coaching the girls team, says, “We have home games on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday against Century HS, Orange HS, and Pomona HS. This season’s schedule is much more difficult than last as we try to take our team to the next level.” 

As reported in Stu News last year, Laguna Beach High School may be the smallest public high school in Orange County, but its successful athletics program belies its size. The LBHS Breakers compete with teams from schools with much larger student bodies. 

LBHS girls coach

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Coach Tietz and Assistant Coach Brianna, his daughter, during last year’s season

Coach Tietz says, “As a refresher, we’re coming off last season where we were ranked number eight in CIF-SS 5A and had a record of 17-11. We went 17-1 against other division 5A opponents but struggled against our much bigger league opponents. This season we are hoping to build upon that success. We hope to even improve our CIF ranking and be competitive within our league.”

Although the team lost two players who graduated, the LBHS girls team is growing in size and adding a full-time JV squad.

“This year’s program has the most players in school history with 21, and we’ll be fielding a full-time JV squad for the first time. The team lost two starters from last year’s team – point guard and two-time team MVP Mia Pitz graduated and is now playing overseas in Ireland at University College Dublin and power forward Hana Ford,” says Coach Tietz. 

LBHS girls 2018 team

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut 

The 2018 LBHS Girls Basketball team: (L-R in front) Rebecca Sanchez, Mia Pitz, Anna Cheng, Alia Hassan; (L-R in back) Autumn Moreland, Claire Smithers, Julia Henry, and Madi Garwal

“Although both will be missed, we are excited about the team we have this season. The varsity team boasts returning starters Julia Henry, Madi Garwal, Anna Cheng, and Autumn Moreland, with returning subs Clarice Curras and Zoe Payne Carter. The varsity squad will also feature three freshmen: Sophie Marriner, Kenna Rudolph, and Sabrina Yang. All will be playing important roles in our success this season.

“We are very excited to be fielding a JV team this season. It is a sign of the growth of our program and it gives our less experienced players an environment to play, improve, and grow. The JV team will start their season on Thursday against Orange HS.” 

The JV roster includes Sophia Seidensticker, Laila Hassan, Brisa Campos, and Laura Mandala, who will all get some playing time on varsity this season too, reports Coach Tietz; Miella Caouette, Sarah Balian, Zoe Holmes, Melisa Javier, Maryana Wollam, and Evelyn Alonso; with Grace Clark-Alexander and Yodi Carrucciu, who are currently injured and unable to play.

LBHS boys and girls cross country teams cruise through CIF Prelims

In a comfortable and predictable fashion, both the Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) boys and girls cross country teams easily qualified for next weekend’s CIF Finals race. Racing in hot, dry, and windy conditions this past Saturday in Riverside, both Breakers teams produced measured race efforts, with their goals set simply to advance through their preliminary races. 

Choosing to strategically rest two of their top five runners, the boys fielded an undermanned team of just six racers (three of whom were freshmen) in their controlled effort. Ranked third overall in the CIF, the boys successfully saved their energy and settled into a very controlled race, executing a sixth place team finish. Their measured performance now sets the boys up nicely for next week’s championship race. 

LBHS boys team

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Submitted photo 

The Team: Top Row: (L-R) Mateo Bianchi, Tanner Burton, Logan Brooks, Mael Metis, Chris Drews, Owen va ES; Bottom Row: (L-R) Will Goodwin, Gabe Neff, Alex Boyd, and Luke Anderton

Led by freshman phenom Nina Rogers (4th overall) and senior anchor Morgan Falkowski (9th), the CIF fourth-ranked Lady Breakers finished second in their heat of 23 teams. The girls also successfully executed their race plan, with the Breakers systematically moving through the large field of racers to secure a non-dramatic race. Junior Sydney Schaefgen (32nd), frosh Hannah Williams (46th), and senior Sierra Read (49th) rounded out a solid set of performances for the Breakers.

Head Coach Scott Wittkop says, “Both storied programs return this weekend to the familiar grounds of the CIF Finals. Now that their tactical qualification performance is over, the Breakers are ready to unleash all-out efforts in their pursuits of more CIF and State Championship titles.”

Annual Brooks Street Surfing Classic officially postponed until 2020

Brooks Street Surfing Classic Contest Director Brandy Faber reports, “Unfortunately, the waiting period for the 56th running of the annual Brooks Street Surfing Classic has officially closed for the year. The surf conditions never materialized in order to run the Classic this year. The annual Brooks Street Surfing Classic will look to resume in the summer of 2020 with the waiting period for the 56th running re-opening on June 1st.”

According to the, Brooks Street Surfing Classic is a contender for the world’s longest running surf competition, held each summer since 1955 (waves permitting), at Brooks Street. 

Annual Brooks Street Scott

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Photo by Scott Brashier

2018 Brooks Street Surf Classic competition

The competition was developed by the Laguna Beach Recreation Department, and originally titled the Laguna Beach Surfing Tournament. The contest is open to Laguna residents only. Larry Brixley and Mike Sagar won the men’s and juniors division, respectively, in 1955; bodysurfing, paddleboard, skim board, and females divisions were added in the 60s.

For more information, visit

Laguna Beach Little League presents free baseball clinic on Saturday

Laguna Beach Little League is offering a free baseball clinic on Saturday, Nov 23 at Riddle Field for registered players expecting to play in the league’s upper divisions. 

This would be for players age 8 and up who expect to play in the Double A (100 percent kid pitch), Triple A, and Intermediate divisions. 

Laguna Beach Little team 

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Submitted photo

Laguna Beach Little League All-Star Team, Summer 2019

Registration must be completed by November 23 for participation in the clinic. 

The clinic will be run by Laguna Beach High School Baseball Coach Jeff Sears and will include two sessions. Players 8-10 years old will attend from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. and players 11-13 years old will attend from 12 - 2 p.m. The snack bar will be open that day also. 

To sign up, visit

Laguna Beach Little League presents free baseball clinic on Nov 23

Laguna Beach Little League is offering a free baseball clinic on Saturday, Nov 23 at Riddle Field for registered players expecting to play in the league’s upper divisions. 

This would be for players age 8 and up who expect to play in the Double A (100 percent kid pitch), Triple A, and Intermediate divisions. 

Laguna Beach Little team

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Submitted photo

Laguna Beach Little League All-Star Team, Summer 2019

Registration must be completed by November 23 for participation in the clinic. 

The clinic will be run by Laguna Beach High School Baseball Coach Jeff Sears and will include two sessions. Players 8-10 years old will attend from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. and players 11-13 years old will attend from 12 - 2 p.m. The snack bar will be open that day also. 

To sign up, visit

11th Annual Sports Swap at Thurston celebrates love of sports, is a rousing success

Photos by Scott Brashier 

The 11th Annual Sports Swap was held at Thurston Middle School on Saturday, Nov 2. Sponsored by the Thurston PTA, proceeds from the Sports Swap go directly to the PTA at Thurston Middle School. 

Jimmy Azadian, chair of the Sports Swap, says, “It was a privilege to chair this community event, working alongside the many moms and dads who donated sports gear and volunteered their time and talents to making this year’s Sports Swap our most successful Sports Swap yet! It is a one-of-a-kind event – joining together members of the Thurston Middle School family and the Laguna Beach community at large – to celebrate our common love of sports.”

11th annual boys and surfboards

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Sports Swap featured two brand new surfboards donated by Catch Surf 

“Whether it be surfers, skimboarders, hockey players, or mountain bikers, Sports Swap has something for everyone. The entire day was filled with happy shoppers and fun-loving volunteers, people who wanted to support our middle schoolers at Thurston. My favorite memory from this year’s Sports Swap was a little girl who found the perfect wetsuit for only $10. She had raised the funds to buy her wetsuit, and she asked me if we could do a Sports Swap every month!” says Azadian. 

11th annual basketball

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Attendees had fun while shopping

“There are many outstanding stories like this one, and I am so very proud of Thurston Middle School and our Thurston PTA for doing the hard work required to put on a community event of this magnitude. And we couldn’t have done it without our awesome sponsors: Catch Surf, Hobie, Laguna Beach Little League, and nbrhd.

“Seeing all of the smiles on the faces of our kiddos and parents was the best reward!” 

11th annual skis

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Something for everyone

Azadian adds, “Even though it is a fundraiser for our middle schoolers, Sports Swap is really an opportunity to bring our community together for a good cause. It is easy to see why Thurston Middle School PTA’s Sports Swap has been an annual event for over a decade, and I am already looking forward to the next Sports Swap in November 2020!”

The Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach was the recipient of any unsold donated equipment at the end of the event.

LBHS girls cross country wins first place in Sunset League race

The Laguna Beach High School girls cross country team won first place honors in the Sunset League race last Saturday in Huntington Beach. The Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Frosh/Soph teams all competed in three-mile races.

In Varsity, Jessie Rose won the race with a time of 18:00.7 (to beat out Kaho Cichon of Fountain Valley at 18:02.3). Third place went to Morgan Falkowski of Laguna Beach at 18:02.7. Also scoring for Laguna were Nina Rogers, Kaitlyn Ryan, Sydney Schaefgen, Sierra Read, and Coco Reed.

LBHS girls cross country team

Submitted photo

Combined Varsity and Junior Varsity cross country teams

In the Junior Varsity race, Melanie Falkowski came in fifth with a time of 20:13.5.

In the Frosh/Soph race, Isabella Reichel came in first with a time of 19:53.4

and Isabella Rivault came in second at 19:56.7.

Laguna Beach Youth Football announces NFL FLAG powered by USA Football program

Young football players in Laguna Beach are invited to enjoy the fun and excitement of American’s favorite sport this winter. Laguna Beach Youth Football will offer NFL FLAG powered by USA Football to its youth athletes in winter of 2019. 

The season begins in December and runs through March 1, 2020. NFL FLAG powered by USA Football is the premier youth flag football program in the United States with more than 410,000 boys and girls ages 5-17 playing in leagues nationwide. Our league in Laguna Beach will be for boys and girls of all skill levels ages 5-15 (Pre-K through eighth grade). 

Laguna Beach field

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Courtesy of Facebook

NFL Flag powered by USA Football comes to Laguna Beach this December

Players in NFL FLAG powered by USA Football have fun while gaining the sport’s inherent benefits and being physically active. Young athletes learn every position on the field as well as football fundamentals through USA Football’s digital resources at

Divisions are as follows:

-- Pre-K/K





Games will be played on Sundays at LBHS. 

Coaches have free access to USA Football’s certified flag football coaching course, spanning the sport’s fundamentals to player health. All players receive NFL team replica jerseys and flags. 

“Flag is a terrific way to enjoy the fun of football while learning the fundamentals of the sport, getting exercise, gaining confidence and making lasting friendships,” Laguna Beach Youth Football Manager Ryan Kollock said. “USA Football provides our young athletes an exciting and rewarding experience with our country’s favorite sport.” 

“For more than 15 years, USA Football has helped millions of young athletes enjoy the best of football through coaching education, exciting versions of the sport and nationally endorsed standards of play.” USA Football Director of Events Brittney Brothers said. “This year will mark the greatest number of coaches and players involved with USA Football to date. We commend and value all high school and youth programs who share our commitment to their young athletes.” 

For more information about the upcoming season and to register your player, visit

LBUSD seeks input for district planning

The Laguna Beach Unified School District is using an innovative online platform called Thoughtexchange to gather community feedback to inform the development of the District’s three-year Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). 

The district’s latest “Exchange” is online now at the link here, and will be open through Wednesday, Nov 13 at 8 p.m. The District asks students, staff, and families to share thoughts regarding the programs and services offered by the district to serve all students. 

The LCAP is an important part of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), established in 2014. It describes how school districts intend to meet annual goals for all students, with specific activities to address state and local priorities. 

LBUSD seeks school

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBUSD uses new online platform to gather community feedback

“The LCAP is developed with the input of the Laguna Beach school community and it serves as a touchstone by which we guide and execute our efforts to educate all students,” said Dr. Jason Viloria, superintendent of schools. “Asking an open-ended question allows us to get a sense of the shared values and priorities of our community. The feedback will help chart a course for the district through to 2022 and it is important to me that everyone affected by the decisions made in our district has an opportunity to share their thoughts,” he concluded. 

An exchange has three simple steps: Share, Star, and Discover.

--Share your thoughts to open-ended questions, independently and confidentially.

--Read thoughts shared by you and other participants, and rate (star) each one out of five stars

--Discover what matters to the group by exploring the thoughts and how they were rated. 

These three steps together bring structure to the conversation. People share their thoughts, rate the thoughts of others, and learn what matters to the group. Thoughts and stars are public, however, names and email addresses of participants will never be associated with a Thought or rating.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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