A professional surfer is being hailed as a hero after rescuing a woman swept into the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii.
Mikey Wright was enjoying a beer and filming the waves on Oahu’s North Shore on December 31 when he realized something was wrong. He asked his wife to hold his phone and beer, jumped over the fence and ran onto the beach, as seen in a video.
“We just seen this wave come up and sweep this lady off the rocks and started to drag her out to sea,” Wright told CNN. “It all happened really fast and we kind of had to jump right into action.”
The 24-year-old surfer managed to get to the woman and hold onto her as the waves thrashed against them, talking to her repeatedly.
“I said, ‘We’re going to be all right,’” Wright said. “‘You’re going to get in. It’s OK.’ And I just kept telling her that and kept telling her to just hold on and don’t let go.”
As they were nearing shore and just starting to stand up, a large surge of water came. Wright jumped while holding the woman to avoid the brunt of the waves and the sharp rocks beneath them.
Others were starting to run down to the water to help, but they weren’t able to get close. Among them was Wright’s sister, Tyler, herself a pro surfer who won first place in the Maui Pro last month.
When Mikey Wright and the woman got close enough, Tyler and the group helped pull the pair up the beach to safety. The woman has not been identified.
After they were both safely on shore, the woman thanked him repeatedly, said she was OK and didn’t have any deep cuts, Wright said. “I think I’m just a little bit shocked,” Wright said she told him.
The woman’s son ran down and thanked the surfer in between tears, Wright said.
“It was very emotional and (he) just kept saying, ‘Thank you. You saved my mother. I thought she was gone,’” he said. “It was a very special moment.”
The North Shore Lifeguard Association lauded Wright and the public for the rescue.
“This lady is so lucky to be alive,” the organization wrote on Instagram. “The North Shore surf can sweep up and grab you at anytime.”
There was a high surf warning in the area on the day of the incident, according to the National Weather Service. Swells reached up to 15 feet that day.
Wright said the woman had not been trying to get into the water.
“That lady had no intention of swimming. It was a 15-foot swell about where she was,” Wright said. “The wave had washed up and dragged her out.”
He warned people the ocean can be unpredictable.
“Always be on your toes,” he said. “You never know what the ocean can do. And, don’t turn your back on it for a second.”
Wright was in Hawaii for the 2020 Billabong Pipeline Masters event, held December 8-20.
This isn’t the first time Wright has had to save someone from the waves. He grew up in Culburra Beach, Australia, where he and his siblings had seen people dragged out into the ocean.
“It’s just something that, growing up in Australia or in a small town on the ocean, you do learn lifesaving skills,” he said.
Despite saving the woman, the surfer said the real heroes are the everyday lifeguards.
“It’s a very nice compliment, but the real heroes are the ones that do this day in, day out here on the North Shore,” he told CNN. “The North Shore Lifeguard Association, they save our lives when we’re surfing pipeline. They’ve helped my brother. They’ve helped me before.”
The lifeguards were busy saving someone else on the beach while Wright was helping the woman, he said.
“They actually had something else going on down the beach that someone needed saving,” he said. “For me to be able to help out, it was a good moment.”
CNN’s Robert Shackelford and Tyler Mauldin contributed to this report.