Imperial Beach Lifeguard turns down $500 after rescuing surfer from drowning

Surfer was stuck under IB Pier for 20 minutes

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. - He saved a man and then turned down a $500 thank you gift.

Such is the life of an Imperial Beach lifeguard.

Last Mothers’ Day, Rick Pecor found himself stuck on a pylon underneath the iconic Imperial Beach Pier.

“I get about halfway through the pier and I get stuck and my leash is around the muscle shells,” Pecor said.

Pecor said he was stuck there for upwards of 20 minutes as waves crashed on his head, nearly drowning him.

Luckily for him, Sgt. Art Ayala showed up early for his shift that day and saw Pecor in trouble.

“If I hadn’t shown up for my shift 10 minutes early the outcome could have been a lot worse,” Sgt. Ayala said.

Ayala was able to cut Pecor’s surfboard leash and pull the man to shore.

Pecor spent the night in the hospital but made a full recovery.  He showed up the following week in Imperial Beach to thank Ayala with a card and $500.

“We can’t accept money or gifts for what we do,” said a humble Ayala.

The two decided to donate the money to IB’s Junior Lifeguard program.  Pecor has since returned to surfing but says he’ll stay away from piers from now on. 

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