Surfer Jumps Into Rough Lake Superior Waves To Rescue Man, Dog Near Lift Bridge

DULUTH, Minn. — A surfer visiting Duluth was in the right place at the right moment, jumping into Lake Superior to save a man and a dog trapped in the rough waves on Wednesday.

The wild scene played out on a pier near the Lift Bridge around 2 p.m.

A wheelchair-bound woman was with her dog and her aide when her dog suddenly broke free of his collar and jumped into the choppy waters.

The man who helps take care of the woman jumped into the water, but didn’t know how to swim.

The surfer, 26-year-old Darby Voeks from Minneapolis, happened to be walking on the pier to try to catch one last wave as the woman called for help.

With a wetsuit on, Voeks jumped into the water, helping both the man and the dog get out of the water using the ladder on the breakwall and the life ring, fighting through the rocky waves to get them back to safety. First responders had just arrived on-scene.

Voeks, who helps run a faith-based youth mentoring nonprofit, reflected on how eye-opening the moment was while going through daily life.

“The alarming part to me is, I was just surfing right there, and I had no idea,” Voeks said. “I think like COVID has shown that people can be struggling right next to us and we don’t even know…I’m checking my own heart and trying to remember the importance of looking around at people around us and just being aware that people are struggling around us.”

No one was injured from the incident.

The Duluth Police Department plans to honor the surfer’s heroic actions with the Police Partnership Award, given to civilians who intervene to save lives or help stop a crime.

The Duluth fire chief added that the surfer’s selfless act saved lives in a dangerous situation.

“The water temperature is still 33 degrees, you know just above freezing, very, very dangerous to jump in that water,” Chief Shawn Krizaj said. “We’re happy to have a private citizen that was out there today, really in the right place at the right time that really helped save a life.”

Voeks said that he only started learning to surf in the last few months. He was planning on driving back to the Twin Cities to take his girlfriend to dinner after one more surf in Duluth, when he jumped into action for the rescue.

He said he still had time to make it back for the dinner date. The woman whose dog and aide he saved told him that she now owes him a dinner for saving their lives.

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