Coast Guard crew in dramatic surf video speaks out

Dramatic video from a 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat called Humboldt Bay has gone viral, along with images taken from the shore during high-surf training right off Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

KTVU met with the crew that took were on board two of the boats in treacherous waters.

The crew is based at Coast Guard Station Golden Gate in Sausalito.

Petty Officer Matthew Whitlow took part in the training.. He's among nine at the station who have earned the coveted rank of "surfman," trained to handle extreme weather and sea conditions.

"When we're in an environment like that, it's dynamic. It's ever-changing. It's fluid," Whitlow said.

Whitlow can take a boat in 20-foot waves, in situations that might make the average landlubber more than a little nauseous.

"So when you're operating like what we do in those conditions, you don't have time to think about being sick, because your mind is making sure your crew's safe, your boat's safe and the people around you are safe," Whitlow said.

It was last Thursday when the Coast Guard took two of their boats just a few hundred yards off the shore. 

Chief Petty Officer Robert Paulino took us aboard one of ships that was out there that day and showed us a tethering system they use.

"It goes right around the waist, gets cinched down and then as the crews are maneuvering on the deck or out on deck itself, they would clip into these 'D-rings,' " Paulino said.            

And after clipping in? Hang on for a wild ride.

We asked if they ever get "scared." Paulino chose instead to use the word  "concerned."

"If you don't have a level of concern operating in those conditions, I don't think that you would be normal," Paulino said.

The images might be amazing, but there's an important message behind it all.

"Make sure you surf with a buddy, tell somebody where you're going," said Chief Warrant Officer Craig Ross, the station's commanding officer. 'If you're just walking the coastline, be careful, pay attention to the tides - whether they're incoming or outgoing - stay away from steep cliffs. You might fall in the water that way."

The Coast Guard will train throughout the winter in high-surf conditions.