SANTA CRUZ: The Felton Woman Who Almost Drowned Met the Big Wave Surfers Who Saved Her


Smiles Credit: Shawn Hatjes/The Go Big Project

The Felton Woman Who Almost Drowned Met the Big Wave Surfers Who Saved Her

Action Sports Wire

By Danny Keit
April 5, 2012

The Felton Woman Who Almost Drowned Met the Big Wave Surfers Who Saved Her

What could have been another makeshift memorial on the Westside cliff at Mitchell’s Cove became a meeting place for two heros and their new found friend.

Normally a story like this only happens in fairy tales. Damsel in distress, hero saves the day. Damsel gets to thank the hero.

This story happened and it played out right here on Santa Cruz Patch.

To recap, on Sunday brothers Darryl “Flea” and Troy Virostko were doing a wave check on West Cliff as one of the largest swells of the year was bearing down on the Santa Cruz coastline. When they rounded the corner by Getchell Street, Flea noticed something wasn’t right. Read HERE. Troy circled the truck back around to double check the situation. A body boarder was in distress, little did they know what was about to happen.

Fast forward to Thursday, Flea and Troy Virostko are standing with Lee Tolson above the exact spot where the two brothers successfully rescued her from the jagged rocks and pounding surf.

The trio stood below the street at Rock Bowls, an emotional meeting between the surfers and Lee Tolson played out. Immediately long hugs and tears ensued and probably hundreds of thank you’s before Darryl and Lee began to discuss the course of events that lead them to this encounter.

In a unique twist, both stories become interlaced as Flea is explaining and showing Lee where he was standing and observing her situation while Lee told him what was going through her mind.

While the group scampers down the cliffside, Darryl begins to explain.

“You were caught right here in the channel of rocks than runs right against the cliff wall,” he points while holding Lee’s hand as she looks over the edge.

“The big table rock right in front of you probably saved your life, the waves were coming from the Northwest and crashing over the rock, if you were 20 feet further down the cliff it would have been a water rescue for sure.”

Troy Virostko also recalled the scene.

“Darryl and I spotted her in the water as we were checking the waves and were wondering why no one on the cliff had reacted.”

The large waves on Sunday had attracted dozens of onlookers.

“Funny thing was Darryl jumped out of the truck before we even stopped and yelled back at me to hurry up, forget the wetsuit, lets go. I was in such a hurry I realized the wetsuit was inside out. I tried to put it on that way and it didn’t work so I had to flip it right side real quick. I don’t think I have ever put a wetsuit on that fast.”

Lee was holding onto Darryl’s arm and hanging on every word. “You were getting pushed around, the waves were huge and the tide was really high. For a moment there I was thinking we weren’t going to be able to grab you.”

Troy added: “The foam from the waves had piled up and was about 3 to 4 feet high, so between the surging of the waves and the foam at times we would lose where she was at.”

Lee Tolson said it felt surreal to her.

“I just had to let go and think that somehow I would muster the energy to reach out and grab hold. I must have fought for over an hour before Flea and Troy came down. I could barely keep my head above water and when I looked up and saw his sneakers I couldn’t even look up.”

Flea was afraid he would hurt her trying to save her.

“I thought I was going to pull her arm out of socket, but I didn’t care. I knew I had to yank her up or she was done.”

Lee listened as Flea and Troy talked about helping her get up to the safety of the cliffside as the paramedics made their way down the cliff to check on the rescue. It was at that moment that Lee grabbed Darryl’s hand and looked into his eyes and without uttering a word, said thank you.

While the paramedics attended to Lee, the Virostko brothers made their way up the cliff, past the throngs of onlookers and back to the truck. The duo had just saved a life and without any fanfare they went back to checking the waves along the Westside.

Lee Tolson on the other hand wanted to know who were the two angels that just saved a fool from certain drowning.

In a random set of events, Lee set out to determine who had just pulled her out of the pounding surf and thank them. She scoured the internet and discovered the story on the Santa Cruz Patch.

Upon receiving her email and subsequent story, I made arrangements for the trio to meetup in the same fateful spot that brought them together.

As Flea, Troy and Lee finished the ascent back to street level with tears in her eyes she said she had a gift for Flea.

Back in her car Lee had made a gift basket full of fruits and goodies for her new friend. Flea of course had ridden down to the cliff on his cruiser so he balanced it on the crossbar of his bike, gave her a big hug and told her they should go surfing soon. In addition Lee had done her homework and knew all about Darryl’s new endeavor Fleahab.

They parted ways, the hero riding off on his cruiser bike with a basket full of love and the damsel driving off to surf another day.

Yes she is still determined to surf!


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