It was just a regular day at the beach, said 20-year-old Tanner Degafferelly.
"I was working the beach chairs at Best Western on Okaloosa Island," the South Walton grad said. "It was kind of cloudy; it wasn't really busy."
The day seemed uneventful until Degafferelly happened to turn around and see a father and daughter caught in a rip current. Their raft had flipped over and the father was holding his 4-year-old daughter above the water, while trying to kick himself out of the current. Noticing that there was no lifeguard on duty, Degafferelly ran to their rescue.
"I just grabbed my surfboard and went out there," he said. "No one else saw it. My friends thought I was going surfing."
Born and raised in Florida, Degafferelly says he is a strong swimmer and did not think twice about heading into the water.
"I quickly grabbed the pair and threw him and his daughter across my board and started kicking," he recalled on his Facebook page. "All I could hear is the little girl screaming and the farther trying to fight to keep him and his daughter above water. When I got to the man, his skin was losing color and fast, and all I could hear him say was 'Save my daughter, don't worry about me.' "
When they safely returned to the shore, the father thanked Degafferely.
"He just held me and thanked me," said the Freeport resident. "He told me it was a sign of God that I had happened to turn around."
The father and daughter were visiting from Louisiana. Growing up and working on the beach, Degafferelly said he has seen too many tourists disregard the dangers of the ocean.
"The waters aren't a joke," he said. "I've seen a lot of tourists take more risks because they're on vacation."
As soon as Degafferelly got off work, he made sure to record his experience on his Facebook page to remind himself and his friends how precious life is. When Degafferelly returns to college at Peru State College in Nebraska in August, he'll have quite the summer to report on.
"I never knew what it actually felt like to literally save someone's life until today … makes me appreciate mine so much more," he said.