CHARLESTON — Becoming a surfman in the U.S. Coast Guard means entering into an elite group. It's an honor being received by one petty officer out of Charleston.
"Petty Officer 2nd Class Manuel Perez, a Boatswain’s Mate at Coast Guard Station Coos Bay, is scheduled to be designated a Coast Guard Surfman, the highest qualification a boat operator can achieve in the U. S. Coast Guard," read a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard Station North Bend.
“Receiving the surfman designation puts Perez in an elite group,” the release said. “He’s designated in the Coast Guard register of Surfman as number 547. Only five percent of Coast Guard coxswains receive the qualification, which typically takes years to earn. It took Perez seven years.”
While lifeboat coxswains are qualified to navigate their vessels into heavy seas, only Surfmen are allowed to navigate into breaking waves. Surf stations are required in areas where surf conditions greater than 8 feet occur more than 36 days out of the year, the release said.
At Station Coos Bay, one of 21 surf stations in the Coast Guard, is located on the Oregon coast with some of the most treacherous surf conditions in the United States. The station’s area of responsibility encompasses a large portion of the coastline of Coos County where the crew is responsible for protecting life in more than 5,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
The 47-foot Motor Life Boat, the platform on which Perez is qualified, is the workhorse of the Coast Guard’s heavy weather fleet. It is primarily designed to operate in high seas, surf and heavy weather environments, the release said.
“Self-righting, self-bailing, almost unsinkable and designed with an extended cruising range, these boats are built to withstand the most severe conditions at sea,” the release said. “As a Surfman, Petty Officer Perez will be qualified to operate the boat in 20-foot breaking waves, 30-foot seas and 50-knot winds.”