NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — A Newport Beach lifeguard is being called a hero after performing two “extremely difficult, back-to-back rescues in high surf conditions” last week.

Sean Richards was commended for his actions on Friday, when Newport Beach was hit by powerful waves that flooded the Balboa Peninsula and destroyed a boat.

At 4 p.m. Richards had spotted two teenage swimmers in distress from the A Street lifeguard tower near the Balboa Pier, Newport Beach spokesman John Pope said. He successfully rescued the first swimmer, and immediately returned to the water to help the second swimmer.

But, during the second rescue, Richards and the swimmer were hit by heavy surf that slammed them both to the ocean floor and held them under. The waves also pushed them into pier pylons, Pope said.

Amid the powerful waves, Pope says Richards was able to keep his grip on the swimmer, and they both made it to shore.

“I am convinced that Sean saved two lives,” Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said in a statement. “This was a heroic rescue in very dangerous ocean conditions.”

After the two successful rescues, Richards collapsed from exhaustion on the beach and was taken to Hoag Hospital. Richards was released from the hospital Friday night.

High waves were forecast for Friday, but the powerful and intense surf conditions were a surprise. A total of 100 rescues were performed Friday, Pope said.

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