Updated: March 24, 2021 09:28 PM
Created: March 24, 2021 05:44 PM
He woke up at 4am to come surfing in Duluth. "They were predicting huge winds," Darby Voeks said. "I love surfing, but I'm not a surfer. I'm not good at it yet."
The 26-year-old from Minneapolis and his friend started out at Lester River, and then headed to Stoney Point. Then, finally, a stop at Park Point.
He planned on going off the pier in Canal Park. Around 2pm, he was supposed to be heading home so he could make it in time for a date with his girlfriend. "I was just going to try and get one more wave in."
But all of the sudden, a woman in a wheelchair came up to him, frantically asking for help. Her dog had gone into the water, and she said her aide went looking for the dog.
At first he was confused and skeptical. But then, others spotted the dog and man in the water.
"I dropped my surfboard and I ran to the end of the pier." He said the man was panicking, saying he didn't know how to swim.
Voeks jumped in and pulled him close, so he could grab on to the ladder built into the pier. "It was a struggle. The waves were so extreme, and he wasn't a swimmer," Voeks remembered. "We grabbed one of the life rings, and threw it to him, and brought it back to the ladder. And finally, with the assistance of two other guys, we got him out."
That left the dog.
"In my head I didn't know if I'd be able to grab the dog and climb he ladder. But I figured I had to try," Voeks said.
Thankfully, the dog had some instinct and climbed on Voeks as he came up the ladder. Then all the first responders were waiting for them.
Voeks calls this all very surreal. "COVID has shown that people can be struggling right next to us, and we don't even know. I was having a great time. But yards away from me, people were really struggling."
He added that the dog owner was so grateful. "She said she owes me dinner next time I'm in Duluth."
The dog was a rescue dog, who had a past including animal abuse and drowning. "She said she'd be lost without him and the aide."
He was also able to hug the aide.
Now Voeks said he's going to be more open to trusting people, and aware of the struggle around us.
Lt. Robin Roeser from the Duluth Police Department said he is going to nominate Voeks for their Police Partnership Award. "You saved a life. It's not often we get someone to take a risk like that. It's a very big deal and we appreciate it. It was very selfless," Roeser told Voeks.
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