Chicago surfer saves 3 swimmers caught in rip current in Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Matthew Lipinski is a registered nurse anesthesiologist from Logan Square. In his spare time he's a surf and scuba instructor.

Wednesday he was at Vans Beach in Leland, Mich., with his family when three people got pulled into a rip current, including an elderly woman.


"I had her hang on to me and later the line on the life ring and I started to kick on my back south to try and get us out," he said. "Another gentleman came out to help but he soon became overwhelmed by the current and the waves. Somebody came out on a boogie board to help, I said, 'Yeah, grab this line and we are all gonna kick to get all these people moving south out of the rip current."

Lipinski found a life ring at Vans Beach that happened to have been there after a drowning years ago. That victim's family advocated for life rings at the beach, and appears to have helped Lipinski save the lives of those in troube.

"Were those life rings not there, this would have been a very poor outcome," he said.

"What Matt did yesterday was outstanding," said Dave Benjamin, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.


According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project there have been 1,002 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010. The nonprofit advocates for there to be life rings near all access points to the Great Lakes, and shares videos on what to do if you get caught in a rip current.

"What we want you to do is flip float and follow, so flip over on your back and float keep your head above water, calm yourself down from the panic of drowning and conserve your energy, then follow a safe path out of the water," Benjamin said.

"So when you see sandy, frothy water being carried out to sea, that is a rip current and that will take you with it and no swimmer can swim against it," Lipinski explained. "Everyone, including myself, was very, very lucky."

Lipinski urged those going into the lakes to understand that dangerous conditions can form in an instant, as the last weeks of summer remain.
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