Surfer rescues man and canine from uneven Lake Superior

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) – A Minneapolis man who surfed the troubled waters of Lake Superior helped rescue a man who was fighting in the water while trying to save a dog.

Darby Voeks, 26, was about to jump off the pier at Park Point in Duluth on Wednesday to catch one final wave when a woman in a wheelchair rolled up and said she needed help because her 29-year-old aide got her dog in the water to rescue. Voeks, wearing a wetsuit, dropped his surfboard and jumped in.

Voeks said the waves were extreme and the man was exhausted. He pulled the man close to the pier ladder, but the man couldn’t pull himself up, so Voeks reached for a lifebuoy on the side of the pier to pull him inside.

Then Voeks went after the dog, the Star Tribune reported.

“The dog’s instincts must have been kicking in. He was sitting on my legs when I tried to pull myself up and when we climbed the concrete wall the Coast Guard and Fire Department were running around,” he said. “It’s completely surreal, it still feels surreal.”

The rescued man was treated on site for possible hypothermia.

Robin Roeser, Duluth police chief, said Voeks will receive the department’s rare Police Partnership Award.

“You run the risk of helping someone else,” said Roeser. “I don’t know how we didn’t lose someone or a dog.”

Voeks, public relations director for Richfield Young Life and Hope Church near Minneapolis, said he was glad he chose another wave.

“I think COVID has shown that people can fight right next to us,” Voeks said. “I had a great time out there and people were fighting for their lives.”

Duluth is located at the westernmost point of Lake Superior and is about 150 miles northeast of Minneapolis.