September 6, 2017
Amputee Jake Hammit didn’t let losing a leg keep him from catching waves as he catches a ride alongside Danny Nicols with Operation Surf. (Photo courtesy of John L. Lyman)
Army veteran Jake Hammit had to make a decision: hold onto his surfboard or let go of his prosthetic leg.
The surfboard could do more damage, plowing into a group of people wading in shallow waters on the inside near the sand. The prosthetic leg, however, is replaceable.
“He just grabbed the board and dropped the leg,” said Huntington Beach lifeguard Lt. Claude Panis.
He said Hammit was catching waves with Operation Surf last Saturday on the north side of the pier, the group prepping for a trip to the United Kingdom. It was Hammit’s first time using a special prosthetic made to ride waves, and he didn’t have it attached before the wave came.
People from his group searched around the ocean looking for the leg before contacting lifeguards. Panis put on his fins and goggles and spent two hours freediving, searching for the leg on the north side of the pier.
“I did a search in that area, up and down from the pier, half mile north and back a couple times,” he said. “It’s kind of like finding a needle in a hay stack.”
Panis said Hammit is ex-green beret, and lost his leg while serving in Afghanistan. Panis said he wasn’t too upset about losing his new prosthetic, which was only used for surfing.
“I’m trained to adapt. You can’t let obsticals get in the way. If it comes up, great. If not, I’m still going to find a way to get out there and surf,” he told Panis. “The guy had a real good attitude.”
Anyone with information, contact lifeguards at 714-536-5285.