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VIDEO: 'A guardian's eye'

Coast Guard surfmen are the service’s most highly trained boat handlers and the only coxswains qualified to operate rescue boats in unpredictable and treacherous breaking surf conditions.

Of the 188 Coast Guard stations, only 20 stations are in areas with surf conditions that require surfmen, who are trained to have the highest level of boat driving skill.

“Being able to drive in surf, in the limitations these boats are designed for, you’re the expert,” is how Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Burns of Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Wash., describes life as a surfman. “By no means does getting your surfman pin mean you know everything about surf. You never know everything about surf.”

These highly trained boatmen live by a code spelled out in “The Surfman’s Creed,” which begins:

“I will, to the best of my ability, pursue each
mission with the commitment, compassion,
and courage inherent in the title of Surfman.
I will endeavor to reinforce the worldwide reputation
of our forefathers in the Lifeboat Community.
I will maintain a guardian's eye on my crew at
all times, and keep a cool, yet deliberate, hand on the throttle…”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Parker recently created a video tribute to surfmen. It contains footage shot in the surf off the Pacific Northwest coast during the winter and several surfmen recite the creed.