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Ben Did Go 8.0 Goes By Fast Across The Catalina Channel

The global surfing and lifesaving communities know well the saying, “Eddie Would Go.”

Eddie Aikau was an accomplished surfer and selfless lifeguard from Oahu who surfed the biggest waves in the world and saved hundreds of lives from the North Shore’s treacherous waters as a lifeguard. He lost his life when he left the shore to save sailors aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule’a (visit here).

The Southern California community has its own Eddie Aikau-like hero, Ben Carlson, a Newport Beach lifeguard, who lost his life saving a swimmer in rough water and high waves.

The Ben Carlson Memorial & Scholarship Foundation explains Carlson’s heroic actions that led to the lost of his life, “It occurred at the end of a busy 4th of July weekend that was marked by warm conditions, abnormally large and turbulent surf, and giant crowds. Newport Beach Lifeguards made 562 rescues that holiday weekend. Many of those were dramatic lifesaving events that resulted in relieved and reunited families, but the next rescue would not.  

At 5:15 pm, Newport Beach Lifeguards Ben Carlson and Gary Conwell were patrolling beyond the large surf in a NBLG rescue boat when they spotted a distressed swimmer. Ben jumped from the boat and after a long swim made contact with the man.  As they began to make their way back out to the rescue boat, both were hit by a large wave and taken over the falls.  

The distressed swimmer made it to the surface and was rescued, but Ben was missing. A 3-hour search ensued that included members from 7 agencies including Newport Beach Lifeguards, Fire, Police, Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol, Huntington Beach Lifeguards, Laguna Beach Lifeguards and State Parks. Ben was eventually located more than a half a mile away from the original rescue location at 8 pm and was transported by Newport Beach Paramedics to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. He was the first and only Newport Beach Lifeguard to die in the line of duty since the service was formed in 1923.

Today was the BEN DID GO Paddle 8.0, a 48 km paddle board charity swim between Santa Catalina Island to Newport Beach in Southern California. 111 solo paddlers, supported by 40 escort boats, took off from Avalon at 6 am and finished in Newport Beach as a group quickly in nearly perfect, tranquil conditions.

For more information on the Ben Carlson Foundation, visit

The Ben Carlson Memorial & Scholarship Foundation was formed to leverage lifesaving Ben Carlson’s legacy through doing positive work in his memory. Taking into consideration the things that truly mattered to Ben, donations support the following causes as the BCMSF Board of Advisors decides.

One of the past recipients of the 2021 Ben Carlson scholarship was Elizabeth Lovat who was a swimmer who was working a Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Instructor when she suffered a spinal injury during ocean training exercises. She is using the much-appreciated funds to take on the next phase of her recovery at a world-renowned rehabilitation center.

© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture beyond the shoreline

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