Friends and family gathered at Newport beach Sunday to celebrate the life of lifeguard Ben Carlson, who was swept away last week while in the water rescuing a swimmer.
Carlson, the first to die in the department’s history, remembered as an adventurous, dedicated lifeguard, who was never happier than when he was in the water.
"As hard as Ben worked, he played even harder,” his father, Chris Carlson, told the crowd gathered on the beach. “He loved adventure and the extra money that he earned was typically spent on trips to find big, perfect waves."
The elder Carlson spoke of his son’s heroic last acts.
"Ben's first ascent into Heaven, July 6, 2014 at 5:30 in the afternoon after doing what he loved the most and what God designed him uniquely to do."
In the morning, Ben Carlson’s friends filled the Pacific with a ceremonial paddle-out on their surfboards.
Later in the evening, as the sun set of the ocean that pulled him away with large waves and a strong rip current, Calson was awarded the medal of valor.
"The Medal of Valor is appropriate for him because he truly gave his life to save another person," said Chief Scott Poster of the Newport Beach Fire Department.