It has been almost two years since we lost Ben Carlson, a lifeguard who made countless saves right here in Newport Beach. That day, the news of search and rescue efforts for him spread quickly amongst the waterfront community after Ben made his last dive at 5:18pm on July 6th, 2014. Everyone felt a moment of timelessness as the minutes ticked on. Once they recovered his body near the 28th Street jetty shortly after sunset, time still barely inched forward for many in the community. There was a feeling of helplessness and a sense that “someone” needed to do “something”– but nobody knew what that “something” was. Hours into the moment, I started a GoFundMe site, threw my money into the pot, and invited everyone else do the same. I guessed… maybe that was the “something” that we could all move forward with?
It was. Everyone was feeling the same thing, and this was the first “thing” we could do. The SaveNewport efforts wound up raising over $16,000. The movement continued with a foundation being formed along with a scholarship fund and monument built to honor him, with the foundation quickly raising over six figures in the first year alone. An entire community sprung up around the effort led by his family and friends, including Brother-in-law Jake Janz, Friends and Lifeguards Past and Present including Chris Conway, Danny Schmitz, Josh Yocam, Skeeter Leeper, Gary Conwell, John Moore, Jen Broderick, Chad Comeau, and of course, his father, Chris Carlson.
As Jake Janz took the reins of the messaging and vision, he also did the same with the art. It was Jake himself who digitally sculpted the likeness of his lost brother-in-law, using cutting edge technology to build a 3D mold and had it cast into 316 Marine Grade Stainless Steel by Masters in Metal.
Newport Beach’s own Lifescapes International designed the landscape pro-bono to honor our fallen lifeguard, and in the same vein, BrightView did the same for the landscape development. So if you’ve been curious what the construction is going on by the Newport Pier, it is BrightView doing free work for a statue of our fallen lifeguard– so give them a smile, a wave, and even a thank-you.
The ground officially broke on Thursday, June 16th, and the unveiling will happen on the two-year anniversary: July 6th. It will begin at 6:45pm with live music from Ben’s friend and surf partner, Duff Kelly. A Color Guard & Bagpipes will, of course, be there as well. The official unveiling will happen at 7:30pm, but it is advised to get there with plenty of time, as parking may be problematic (locals: walk or ride your bike, or hop in a rideshare car of your choice).
This will be a moment completely put together by the community efforts of everyone right here in Newport Beach. A wonderful cause which will continue to teach children, tourists, adults, and locals about water safety well into our future– and will allow Ben to continue to save lives through his ultimate sacrifice.
To gauge the parking, here are some pictures of the one-year marker a year ago, and of the paddleout the year-of. This community has come together so tightly around this issue– it is sure to be the event to be talked about for years to come. Mark your calendars and park early. I’ll be seeing you there.