His job is rescuing struggling swimmers, but lifeguard Tom Trager
has also coaxed his fair share of fleeing lawbreakers out of the
waves off Laguna Beach. The pursuing police may employ
helicopters, a P.A. system and spotlights to convince criminals
to return to shore, yet Trager has something even more
persuasive: "I know I can outswim them," he says.
Trager, who epitomized the Southern California lifestyle when he
splashed across our cover 15 years ago, may have been involved
in his most daring rescue just last month, at the Kea Lani Hotel
in Maui. And it wasn't a person he helped to save--it was his
own wedding. Mike Tyson and his entourage, staying at the hotel
while Tyson prepared for his June 8 fight with Lennox Lewis,
were making so much noise that Trager and his wedding
coordinator asked the former heavyweight champion to go
elsewhere during the May 11 beachfront ceremony. To Trager's
surprise, Tyson obliged, and the nuptials of Trager, 34, and
Emilie Nolan, 28, went off smoothly and quietly. "Who knows with
that guy," says Trager. "I was concerned that he might start
tearing down tables."
It was just another day at the beach for Trager, who has been a
lifeguard for 17 years with the city of Laguna Beach. Trager
typically mans one of roughly 30 lifeguard towers along Laguna
Beach's rocky coves or patrols the beach in a Toyota 4Runner. He
is also a professional skimboarder. (In skimboarding, competitors
get a running start, jump on their boards in the retreating surf,
head into a wave and then ride it back to shore.) Trager won
back-to-back skimboard titles at the Aliso Beach Victoria Pro-Am
World Championships in 1987 and '88 and took third in '99 and
2000. Last year he placed fifth. "Now they give me crap about
being the old guy," he says.
No one has given him grief for his cover appearance, for which
he was photographed at Aliso Beach a few weeks after he'd won
his, and skimboarding's, first world championship. Trager says
yes, the cover appearance got him a little extra attention from
the ladies on the beach, but that was years ago. Now he revels
in his anonymity. "I'm waiting for the day SI has a party for
everyone who's ever appeared on the cover," says Trager, "but I
don't get an invitation because they don't know who I am." They
--Kelvin C. Bias
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER (COVER) Trager was skimboarding's first world champion, and he still competes in one event every year.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK TO THE RESCUE Trager has made a living as a Laguna Beach lifeguard for the past 17 years.