ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - An Atlantic Beach man is looking for the surfers he says saved his and his granddaughter’s lives by pulling them from a riptide.

Ray Garber was at the beach near 8th Street in Atlantic Beach Tuesday evening with his three-year-old granddaughter, Aria. The two had spent the evening playing in the sand and waded into the water waist-high to rinse off.

“Then a couple big waves came,” Garber said. “Next thing I know I’m 150 feet off the beach.”

Garber tried to swim back to shore with Aria, who was wearing puddle jumper floaties at the time, but couldn’t get out of the current.

“I could feel just the tip of my toes in the [sand] and touch it and I couldn’t get any closer than that,” Garber said. “And every time we’d get that close, we’d get pulled right back out.”

Garber called out to a nearby surfer, who brought Aria back to shore. Garber thought he could swim back after them but couldn’t make any progress.

“Just swam as hard as I could and got nowhere,” he said.

Exhausted and alone, Garber started to panic.

“I’m a single grandparent, it’s just the two of us,” he said. “And I was thinking about her more than anything. Her sitting on the beach and me not coming back.”

After a deep breath, Garber flipped onto his back to conserve energy to try again. That’s when another surfer came to his rescue.

“If it wasn’t for those guys I don’t know what would’ve happened,” Garber said.

Once on shore, the surfers asked if Garber and Aria were okay and then went back in the water. Garber never got to properly thank them.

That’s one reason Garber decided to share his story; the other reason is a warning.

Garber, a former volunteer lifeguard and surfer himself, is a strong swimmer. Yet even he fell victim to mother nature.

“And if you’re not a strong swimmer you have no chance,” he said.

First Coast News would love to help reunite Garber with the heroes who rescued him. If you know the surfers that came to his aid, please send Juliette Dryer an email at