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The highest lifeguard award presented by USLA is the Medal of Valor. The primary purpose for creating this award is to give due recognition to an individual lifeguard who voluntarily risked their life, to an extraordinary degree, in saving, or attempting to save another person, or who sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others. Recipients and/or their families are awarded the USLA Medal of Valor at a CSLSA Board of Directors′ meeting. They also receive the CSLSA MOV award.

2018 USLA Medal of Valor Recipients:

  • Matt Rhodes - LA County Lifeguard Specialist (Rescue Vessel)
  • Brian Kari - LA County Lifeguard Specialist (Rescue Vessel)
  • On June 25, 2016, Los Angeles County Rescue Vessels (Baywatch Avalon and Baywatch Isthmus) raced to the seaward side of Catalina Island at Salt Verde Point. A 26 foot boat went over a reef in shallow water just as a large wave hit them broadside. A second wave turned them over and 7 victims were thrown in the water. Boat Captains Dempsey and Pelkey searched the debris field whereupon Lifeguard Specialists Kari and Rhodes dove into the 4-6 foot waves to find and rescue 2 victims which they brought onboard. Sadly, the 2 victims were DOA. A good samaritan boat rescued 2 other victims still alive, which were then transferred to one of the LACO Rescue Vehicles. Capt. Pelkey then drove back to Avalon for air transfer. After a Coast Guard helicopter alerted them that another body was in the surfline, Rhodes jumped in to rescue, but the victim had already died. 2 other victims, one inside the battered boat, were rendered aid by a Catalina Conservancy Ranger and the Coast Guard. 4 of the victims survived, but 3 died. For their heroic rescues under life threatening conditions, Brian Kari and Matt Rhodes were awarded the USLA Medal of Valor. To view a video of this rescue, CLICK HERE.
    2018 USLA Medal of Valor Recipients:
  • Tyson Cleveland - Lifeguard, Oceanside, CA
  • Victor Dhillon - Lifeguard, Oceanside, CA
  • Nicholas (Kaipo) Kelley - Lifeguard, Oceanside CA
  • Marko Lagendijk - Lifeguard, Camp Pendleton CA
  • Emile Lagendijk - Lifeguard, Oceanside, CA
  • Matt Mattison - Lifeguard, Oceanside, CA
  • Dieter Swank - Lifeguard, Oceanside CA
  • On October 7, 2017, Oceanside Lifeguards, Fire department personnel and Harbor police were alerted that a boat had hit the north jetty, capsized and tossed the operator into the water. The high surf and pounding waves had then slammed the man into the rocks in a six-foot crevasse. He was injured and clinging for his life. The conditions prevented a rescue boat extraction, so the lifeguards jumped into the churning water and hazardous waves to swim to him. After a half hour, the victim was pulled from the rocks, lowered into a smaller craft, who then transferred him to the rescue boat. After firefighters worked on his injuries, he was taken to a hospital where the man was treated and eventually released. The 7 lifeguards involved in this incident were: Oceanside guards Tyson Cleveland, Victor Dhillion, Nicholas Kelley, Emile Lagendijk, Matthew Mattison and Dieter Swank and Camp Pendleton lifeguard Marko Lagendijk. For their heroic actions under extreme conditions, they were awarded the USLA Medal of Valor.

    USLA Lifeguard Medal of Valor
         Recipients from California agencies

      Albers, Bob 1999 San Diego, CA
      Bahl, John 2017 San Diego, CA.
      Bartlett, Mike 2005 Huntington Beach, CA.
      Beuerlein, Mike 1989 Huntington Beach, CA
      Blackford, Matt 2010 Newport Beach, CA
      Borland, Tim 2003 Port San Luis Harbor District, CA
      Brown, Mark 2012 San Diego, CA
      Buck, Nathaniel 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Carlson, Ben 2014 Newport Beach, CA
      (posthumous to rescue effort)
      Carter, David 1991 Cal State Parks (Russian River District)
      Cicchetto, Sean 1996 San Diego, CA
      Cleveland, Tyson 2018 Oceanside, CA
      Coats, Eric 2006 Cal State Parks (Lake Perris)
      Connolly, Chris 2016 Cal State Parks (Ventura)
      Corbo, Christian 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Culp, Casey 1998 California State Parks, CA
      Dhillon, Victor 2018 Oceanside, CA
      Feighan, Mark 2010 San Diego, CA
      Fellars, Timothy B. 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Fesler, Jeff 2003 Port San Luis Harbor District, CA
      Gitelson, Joel 2006 Los Angeles County, CA
      Grigsby, Scott 1994 Los Angeles County, CA
      Griguoli, Rich 2003 California State Parks, CA
      Harris, Ed 1999 San Diego, CA
      Higa, Brian 2012 City/County of Honolulu, HI
      Horn, Brit 2005 Sonoma Coast State Beach, CA
      Ingalls, Chris 2017 San Diego, CA
      Kari, Brian 2018 Los Angeles County, CA (Baywatch)
      Kelley, Nicholas 2018 Oceanside, CA
      Keulana, Brian 1996 Honolulu, HI
      Korber, Paul 1998 Ventura County, CA
      (posthumous to rescue effort)
      Lagendijk, Marko 2018 Camp Pendleton, CA
      Lagendijk, Emile 2018 Oceanside, CA
      Larsen, Billy 2003 Pismo Beach, CA
      Liebig, Peter 2010 San Diego, CA
      Mattison, Matt 2018 Oceanside, CA
      McDonald, Daryl 2010 San Diego, CA
      Meyer, Greg 2010 Newport Beach, CA
      Milligan, Joe 1989 California State Parks, CA
      Murphy, Timothy 1996 California State Parks, CA
      Northhelfer, James W. 2009 California State Parks, CA
      Panis, Marc 1989 Huntington Beach, CA
      Pendergraft, Aaron 2016 Cal State Parks (Sonoma)
      Pepper, Laine 1999 San Diego, CA
      Quigley, Patrick 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Quigley, Patrick 1999 San Diego, CA
      (this is his second award)
      Raines, Dave 1999 San Diego, CA
      Rhodes, Matt 2018 Los Angeles County, CA (Baywatch)
      Snow, Kevin 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Sproull, Mark 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Stephenson, Michael 1996 California State Parks, CA
      Straub, Don 1991 Cal State Parks (Russian River District)
      Swank, Dieter 2018 Oceanside, CA
      Tegland, Ormand 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Trager, Tom 1998 Laguna Beach, CA
      Vipond, Jon 2010 San Diego, CA
      Wilson, David 2017 Oceanside, CA