The Cambrian

Surf rescue class planned April 3-7 off North Coast

Members of a surf rescue class practice open-water rescue techniques in 2009 at San Simeon Cove.
Members of a surf rescue class practice open-water rescue techniques in 2009 at San Simeon Cove.

If you see nearly two dozen wet-suited people take to the near-shore North Coast waters April 3 through April 7, chances are they’ll be students taking a five-day course in open-water rescue techniques and the instructors who are teaching the classes.

Steve Bitto of Cambria, a former captain with Cambria Fire Department, is a division chief with Fire Management Consultant (FMC), the firm that teaches the intensive California State Fire Training course in basic swimming, inflatable rescue-boat operations and open-water rescues.

Among students who had signed up as of Tuesday, March 28, were eight members of the Cambria Fire Department and Francissco Raymundo and Elvis Galdamez, who are coming in from Belize for their second FMC course. FMC taught courses in Belize in 2014 and 2015, Bitto said during a phone interview.

Raymundo and Galdamez are members of the Belize School of Outdoor Leadership Training.

According to the FMC website at, students taking the course learn how to confidently, safely and proficiently perform contact rescues in static and surf-water conditions. “In water” skills include how to read and understand water flow and surf, using rescue buoy devices and boards, dealing with combative victims, performing self rescues and rescues of multiple victims, both conscious and unconscious.

State- and national-level certificates of completion are issued to those finishing the course.

Bitto, Dave Glaser and Julie Gardner will teach the course in oceanic areas from Morro Bay Harbor to San Simeon Cove.

Although weather and surf conditions will determine what happens when, Bitto said the plan is for the students to be in the classroom at the Cambria Fire station on Burton Drive all day Monday and Tuesday mornings, April 3 and 4. Tuesday afternoon, they’re to head for Morro Bay harbor, to train in calmer waters before hitting the surf at San Simeon Cove on Wednesday, April 5.

Late morning Wednesday — again depending on wind, surf and other conditions — Bitto said he expects the CHP helicopter to be at the cove to help teach the students “helocasting,” which in this case refers to the art and skill of jumping out of a helicopter to help a floundering swimmer or boater. The students will rotate, with the first rescuer becoming the in-water victim for the second student to jump out of the helicopter, and so on.

“That way they all get a chance” to learn what it’s like to rescue and be rescued in the water, Bitto said.

“Thursday (April 6), we will be at Leffingwell Landing, doing boat launches and landings, rescue-swimmer deployment, victim pick-ups, working around rocks and multiple-victim rescues,” Bitto said.

The schedule for Friday, April 7, at San Simeon Cove calls for “boat towing, cave rescues, and finishing up anything we missed.” Then, in the afternoon, “we will do a large scenario with multiple victims and utilize the on-duty staff like it’s a real call.”

People can still register to take the $495 course; those interested can sign up on the FMC website, or call Cambria Fire at 805-927-6240 and leave a name and number where they can be contacted.