Hurricane Fabio blew into to Orange County right on time. My wife Christine and I were on a walk to Trestles Tuesday night, and I stowed my udt mat and fins in the backpack along with the dinner. We first checked cottons, then headed past uppers, lowers, Middles, etc. I decided not to head out any of these spots as the shortboard crowd was on top of their game and in full effect. So I stopped at a weird riptide/left into a little bay north of church but south of middles. It was pretty much pumping, and after my wife said for me to go on out and that she'd finish her walk alone, I suited up, inflated and began psyching out for the paddle & kick out. The left looked ideal for matting as there were no surfers up that far, and it was big and lined up, though bumpy and drifty.
As she walked away, I jokingly told Christine to check out 2 soldiers from Pendelton preparing to swim out in full military fatigues. I couldn't believe that they'd try to swim in fatigues. I thought that this was part of some weird training regimen, but that they obviously knew what they were doing. After about forty minutes of catching waves and paddling back out I stopped once again to check out these 2 soldiers now roughly 75 yards off the sand. I noticed this time, unlike the previous paddle-bys I did, that one soldier was having trouble keeping his head up out of water. Then after I'd kicked over a wave and was about 50 feet further out one soldier began screaming for help. I kicked as fast as I could to get within range of these guys and just before another wave broke, I got the soldier most in need to grab the mat, which I now let go of. I instructed him on grabbing the corners and not letting go, and I simultaneously grabed his wet military fatigues behind his shoulders and began backstroke kicking as hard as I could toward shore.
By now another surfer had made his way over to the less distressed soldier, and was helping him in. After getting hit by 2 or 3 sets and swimming like crazy dragging this guy, I finally made it through the shore pound and we washed up on the sand together. He was still gripping the mat for dear life. All he said was, "thanks." I told him not to go back out there, and walked up the beach just in time to meet up with my wife now returning from her walk. She commented on the two wet soldiers trudging back past church toward base. I related my story to her and just sat tripping out that I'd just been involved in the rescue of a soldier using my udt mat. We sat and ate dinner as the sun set in total disbelief. What a weird session.