Death of Tofino surfer 'took a toll,' says man who attempted rescue

A construction worker who attempted to save the life of a 27-year-old surfer in Tofino, B.C., hopes the incident will lead to heightened awareness of the renowned surfing destination's deadly rip currents.

'We both looked at each other and said at the same time, we're not giving up on this guy'

Construction worker Vincent Mallaley attempted first aid on an injured surfer in Tofino, B.C., on Saturday, but the surfer ended up dying at the scene. (CHEK News)

When Vincent Mallaley set out for a Saturday stroll on Tofino, B.C.'s Long Beach this weekend, ending up in the water wasn't part of his plan.

But the trained first aider saw a surfer in distress and immediately jumped into action.

Mallaley and his wife were walking on the renowned surfing beach on Vancouver Island's west coast when they spotted a commotion in the water.

It turned out to be an injured surfer.

"As I got to the edge of the water, his friend said, 'he's drowning, he's drowning,'" Mallaley recalled.

Another first aider on scene

Mallaley headed out into the water where another passerby was already attempting to rescue the surfer. Mallaley said the surfer was already unconscious with a large gash on his cheek, so the pair got him out of the water and started CPR.

Things looked grim, but that didn't stop them.

"The [other] first responder and myself looked at each other and we said, he's not going to make it," Mallaley said.

"[But we] said at the same time, we're not giving up on this guy. We're going to continue."

The incident happened near Lovekin Rock, a well-known landmark on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, near Tofino, B.C. (Dean Stoltz/CHEK News)

Mallaley says the two of them performed CPR for about 20 minutes before a park ranger arrived with a defibrillator, which they deployed to no effect.

The 27-year-old surfer died at the scene, according to RCMP. Officials have not yet confirmed the surfer's identity.

Though Mallaley has experienced people dying after attempting first aid before, he said the surfer's youth made this one particularly hard.

"It was just supposed to be a sunny stroll along the beach, and this is what we encountered," Mallaley said.

"Knowing that he was a young man, working on him for the period that we worked on him and not being able to save him — it took a toll on both of us."

Deadly rip currents

Mallaley said the section of Long Beach where the surfer died is known to have dangerous undercurrents that can catch even experienced surfers unaware.

"If a person doesn't know the waters around there, and they're not a strong swimmer, the rip current will pull you under," he said.

Mallaley hopes the surfer's death will prompt better signage on the beach and better awareness of its dangers overall.

"Hopefully, this won't happen to another young gentleman or young lady that doesn't have the experience," he said.

With files from CHEK News.