image-beach rescue award
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos  presents Menlo College student Andrew Abbey with an award to note his bravery during an April rescue at Poplar Beach. Photo courtesy San Mateo County Sheriff's Office

Menlo College student and surfer Andrew Abbey remembers the weather was bad on the April day that college-bound football star Naphtali Moimoi drowned at Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay. The waves were huge and the tide was strong. 

Abbey and his friend, Brendan Callagy, were hanging out on the beach when they heard screaming and saw two boys who were drowning in the water.  

“We could see they were struggling,” said Abbey, who is 18. “They were giving up. They were out of breath.”

The two teens had jumped in the water to try to rescue Moimoi when their friend disappeared in the waves. Abbey jumped in the water and rescued one of the boys, pulling him to shore. The other teen also made it back to the beach. 

“The whole situation went by quickly,” Abbey said. “We’re glad we could’ve helped out in that way.”

Last week, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office recognized Abbey for his heroic rescue. 

“I’m going to cherish it for the rest of my life,” he said of the honor.

But as much as receiving the award was welcome, Abbey said recovering from that traumatic day has been difficult.  

“It was a struggle honestly,” he said. “You don’t see that on an everyday basis.” 

Abbey attended Moimoi’s funeral and met the families of the boys who survived. “It was a sad thing,” he said. “It still hurts me to this day.”

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