A Stow teen only served as a lifeguard for a year and a half, but that training and a great amount of adrenaline took over earlier this month when he saved two people from drowning at a North Carolina beach.
On July 3, Travis Shrout, a Stow-Munroe Falls High School graduate and a rising sophomore at Hiram College, was spending his last day at the beach with his family in Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
The 18-year-old had spent the day catching waves on bodyboards with his brother and a family friend, and noticed that the waves were a little rougher than usual.
Everyone decided to go back to shore, but family friend Thad Unkefer asked Shrout to go back out so that Unkefer could try a new tracking feature on his drone.
Shrout swam out with his bodyboard and noticed Ashley Batchelor of North Carolina and her 10-year-old son, Conner, were farther out into the ocean and seemed to be struggling.
“I thought I heard ‘help’ but it was such a weird situation. I said, ‘Are you alright?’ and she said, ‘No,'” Shrout said. “I immediately started swimming out to her.”
Shrout had earned a lifeguard certification from the Akron YMCA and served as a lifeguard at the Riverfront YMCA, and his training quickly kicked into gear.
There were no lifeguards on the beach, Shrout said.
“I’d already been out there already for an hour, maybe two. I was a little tired, but there was so much adrenaline,” Shrout said.
By the time he reached Batchelor, Conner had already drifted another 10 to 15 feet, so Shrout gave the bodyboard to Batchelor and swam out to Conner.
“I knew I couldn’t swim fast enough with the board,” Shrout said. “I was already not going as fast as I wanted, and he had already gone under four or five times. He was bobbing up and down, so I got underneath him and had him float. I was propping him up and then the mom got back to us, and we tried our best to get in.”
Finally, they got close enough to shore and another North Carolina man on the beach, Andrew Leonard, swam out with a second bodyboard and helped pull them safely back.
Meanwhile, his mother, Gretia Grayson Shrout, was watching the whole ordeal from the shore.
“I was watching him, and I stood up to tell him to come in because he was getting too far out and I couldn’t figure out why he was swimming out so far,” Grayson Shrout said. “Then I saw the splashing and we realized what was going on. Your instinct as a mom is to jump in and help your kid, but I know I’m not a strong enough swimmer to do that. I just had to watch. It was a completely helpless feeling.”
When everyone got to shore, Batchelor immediately grabbed Grayson Shrout for a hug.
“She was crying and she said, ‘God put Travis there to save us because we were dying,'” Grayson Shrout said.
Unkefer captured the entire rescue, including the hug between the two moms, on his drone and posted the video to YouTube.
Travis Shrout was still running on adrenaline and said he could not even remember Batchelor and Conner’s names when they got to shore, even though they had told him when they were out in the water.
“I was in almost a kind of disbelief. It’s one of those situations you go over in your head what you would do if something like that were to happen,” he said. “To have it actually play out is pretty crazy. I’m in disbelief that I really did save them because it didn’t feel like I did too much.”
Shrout’s advice to others is to be cautious of the ocean when it looks even a little rough.
“You have no idea how fast it can rip off your feet. The ocean’s a scary place,” he said.
Shrout is expected to receive a proclamation in his honor from the city of Stow at the next City Council meeting on July 22.