Standing before a half-dozen news cameras, reporters, and government workers, the mayor of Honolulu recently honored South Africa's Andre Botha with a series of recognitions for his heroic efforts in saving the life of Evan Geiselman. "What you did on that day to save Evan's life was truly inspiring," Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Botha. "Thanks to your efforts, a life was saved."
On the off-chance you haven't already heard of Botha's actions, on December 6th, amid a harrowing swell, he found Geiselman submerged and unconscious in the water at Pipeline. After a barrel pinched on him, Geiselman fell, lost consciousness, and found himself teetering on death's door. Botha witnessed the wipeout and kept an eye on the Floridian, waiting for the 22-year-old to surface. When he didn't, Botha paddled over to his tombstoned board and found him unresponsive and submerged underwater.
With 10-foot-plus sets washing through the impact zone, Botha was miraculously able to dive underwater and rescue Geiselman. He then paddle his limp body toward the shoreline, all the while attempting to resuscitate him. "It was beyond a doubt the most physically demanding thing I've ever done," recalled Botha. Coming from a man who routinely throws himself over the ledge at some of the most notorious slabs in the world, these are powerful words.
When Botha made his way through the streaking current and toward the shoreline, he was met by lifeguards, other surfers, and an off-duty paramedic who helped stabilize Geiselman, place him on a gurney, and rush him to a hospital.
"His face was completely blue, his eyes had rolled back in his head, and he had foam running out of his mouth when we got him to shore," remembers Botha. "It was terrifying to see. I wasn't at all sure that he was going to make it at that point. But I'm so thankful he did." Botha went on to say that he and the Geiselman family have become close friends.
In large thanks to Botha and the efforts of Honolulu's lifeguards and emergency workers, Geiselman was able to make it to the hospital and has since recovered from the ordeal. In the ceremony at the mayor's office, a city official read a letter from Geiselman thanking all those who helped saved his life.
For his part, despite all of the fanfare, ceremony, and recognition for his heroics, Botha remained humble.
"I don't think of myself as a hero at all," he said. "The guys who are the real heroes are the lifeguards and emergency workers who do this job every single day."