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 Ben Carlson-DP

 Photo Credit: The Daily Pilot

July 6, 2014

On Sunday, July 6, shortly after 5 p.m., a Newport Beach rescue boat identified a swimmer in distress in the six-to-eight-foot surf near 16th street. Newport Beach Lifeguard Ben Carlson entered the water to rescue the swimmer. After Ben successfully made contact with the man, both of them were hit by a large wave. The other lifeguard personnel at the scene attempted to rescue and assist Ben, but – due to the turbulent water conditions – they were unable to do so. The swimmer Ben was attempting to rescue was successfully pulled from the ocean and is fully recovered.

Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol, Laguna Beach Lifeguards, State Parks personnel, and the Newport Beach Police Department helicopter joined Lifeguard and Fire staff in the search for Ben. In all, 25 individuals conducted a search in the water, supported by 30 others on shore and air support. Ben was eventually located at approximately 8 p.m.

Newport Beach Paramedics transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Ben was 32 years old and had served as a Newport Beach Lifeguard for 15 years. He was an accomplished and dedicated waterman, who was highly respected by his peers.  Ben is the first lifeguard in the history of Newport Beach to be killed in the line of duty.

We extend our deepest appreciation to the many rescue workers – our own and those from neighboring agencies – who were so brave and determined in the search for Ben. Our thoughts and prayers will remain with his family and all that knew and loved him.


The City of Newport Beach has received a number of inquiries from community members wishing to make donations in Ben's honor. At the request of Ben's family, the Newport Beach Ocean Lifeguards Association (NBOLA) has begun a scholarship in Ben's name. The scholarship funds will be awarded to current seasonal lifeguards to assist with furthering their educational goals. Donations can be made online (click here) or mailed to:

Newport Beach Fire Department
Attn: NBOLA, Ben Carlson Scholarship
P.O. Box 1768
Newport Beach, CA 92658-8915

Please make checks payable to "NBOLA" and include "Ben Carlson Memorial Scholarship Fund" in the memo line. The Association is a 501(c)4, and all donations are tax-deductible (NBOLA's tax ID number is 91-1835045).

Memorial Services

There will be two services in honor of Ben on Sunday, July 13.

  • A Memorial Paddle Out will be held promptly at 9 a.m. at the Newport Beach Pier. A Paddle Out is a way of honoring the fallen who had deep ties to the ocean. The ceremony will consist of a gathering on the beach before participants take to the water, paddling out beyond the break, and forming a circle as a sign of union with each other and with Ben. Conditions permitting, the Paddle Out will be close enough to the end pier that non-surfers can gather there to watch and participate.
    • Participants are strongly encouraged to arrive by 8 a.m.  Parking will be extremely limited; carpooling and bicycle access is encouraged. A temporary drop-off zone has been designated on 20th Street between Balboa Boulevard and Court Street (parking map). Participants need to provide their own paddle/surf boards. Conditions permitting, the Paddle Out will be close enough to the end of the pier that non-surfers can gather there to watch and participate.
    • Please note that the area around the pier will be closed to all recreational vessels from 8 a.m. until the end of the Paddle Out.  Observers may participate on paddle/surf boards, or view the event from the Newport Beach Pier.
    • Food will be provided by Wahoo's Fish Taco and coffee will be provided by Ruby's (the Balboa Pier location) during this event.
  • A Celebration of Life will be held promptly at 6:30 p.m. on the beach at Orange Street in Newport Beach.
    • Attendees are encouarged to arrive early.  Parking will be extremely limited; carpooling and bicycle access is encouraged. A designated bicycle parking area will be provided on the beach.
    • A shuttle service will be provided between the ceremony location and the designated parking lots on the Hoag Hospital campus between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. The parking lots (click here to see a parking map) are located off of West Coast Highway, between Superior Avenue and Newport Boulevard. Access to the parking lot is from West Coast Highway.  The City's Police Explorers will be there to direct vehicles.
    • Individuals with special needs, such as handicap access, should contact the Newport Beach Fire Department at 949-644-3106 in advance of the event to arrage for appropriate parking accommodations.
    • Casual or "Aloha" attire is requested.
    • Light refreshments will be provided following the ceremony.

About Ben

Ben Carlson was born on July 2, 1982 to Chris and Teri Carlson. He grew up in Rancho Cucamonga with his younger sister, Stephanie Janz (now of Corona del Mar).

Ben attended Etiwanda High School and Riverside Community College before transferring to the University of California, Irvine, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2005. While at UCI, Ben also played water polo under legendary coach Ted Newland. Ben was a true "Newland-ite" and often quoted his favorite coach.

Ben was hired as a Newport Beach Lifeguard on March 26, 1999, joining several of his classmates from Etiwanda High School. He quickly became a leader in the organization, mentoring both new and more experienced lifeguards throughout the City. He was generous and readily shared his experiences and insight with others, always striving to improve the agency's beach performance.

In Ben's 15 years with Newport Beach Lifeguards, he worked a variety of assignments in every division available: tower lifeguard, unit lifeguard, Junior Lifeguard instructor, dispatcher, and (his favorite) rescue boat deckhand. Ben was a hard worker who was consistently available to pick up shifts. He was always working toward his lifelong dream of serving others, whether through his recent interest in law enforcement or his long-term goal of becoming a full-time Newport Beach Lifeguard Captain.

In his personal life, Ben's exuberance and passion had many outlets. Even off duty, Ben pursued his love of the ocean. He was an enthusiastic big-wave surfer, sharing stories of the waves he had caught in Mexico, Oahu's North Shore, Fiji, Samoa, Indonesia, New Zealand, and France. He was also an avid golfer and joined his father for a few rounds in the desert whenever he could.

Ben's love for the Los Angeles Dodgers was infamous among his friends. He was a season ticket holder who carried a Dodger coffee mug with him everywhere. He and his father also were fans of the Green Bay Packers. In 2010, Ben joined friends Skeeter and Fussie for a trip to "The Frozen Tundra" itself, Lambeau Field.

Ben also bartended at some local hotspots: Malarkey's Irish Pub, Landmark Steakhouse, RA Sushi of Huntington Beach, and Wahoo's Fish Taco. He recently worked for Wahoo's Corporate, assisting founder Wing Lam in setting up new restaurants throughout the country. 


Last updated: 7/14/2014 11:27:24 AM