Sam Ruskin was surfing with his cousin in Florida’s Jupiter Inlet late Friday when he noticed a bunch of people gathered at the end of the jetty on the southern side of the inlet.
The 13-year-old told TC Palm that he saw containers floating away from a fishing boat that had just capsized and then noticed a man struggling against the current near the rocks that form the jetty's base.
The man was not wearing a life jacket, and Sam said the sea was choppy because of strong winds.
"If you don't get out of there you could easily drown," Sam told the news outlet. "He looked out of breath and tired. I paddled out to where he was and told him to get on my surfboard. He looked pretty shocked. He got on the board and I paddled him in, and he said thank you and I went back to surfing."
Although Sam, who is in the eighth grade at Independence Middle School, "didn't really think it was that much of a big deal," his father, Ryan Ruskin, saw things differently.
"I was shocked, just ecstatic with pride," Ryan Ruskin said.
He said his son had mentioned something about helping someone at the inlet when he picked him up Friday night, but he didn't realize how dramatic the incident was until one of his friends shared the drone video on Facebook later that weekend.
"It's really a very dangerous area. Someone dies in that inlet every year," Ryan Ruskin said. "He was just like, 'What's up? What are we doing tonight? What's for dinner?' "
Kevin Cadby, of Palm Beach Gardens, said he had been flying a drone over the area all afternoon.
"It wasn't really sunny and the water wasn't that beautiful blue," Cadby said.
So after a while, he turned to "chasing boats."
Cadby was standing along the jetty at the southern end of the inlet, peering out of binoculars and taking videos of boats as they approached the inlet.
"I saw a little fishing boat coming in," he said. "And I stuck with him the entire time."
He said the boat laid off the throttle as it entered the rough waters of the inlet, leading waves to sink the vessel in a matter of minutes. He said he watched the boat's only passenger until he was safely on land.
Once Sam helped the man to shore, he was checked out by rescue officials but left uninjured.
Here is the video Cadby captured of the moment that Sam rescued the man.
"My heart thumps every time I watch that video still," Cadby said.
Cadby said he and Sam plan to team up in the near future to capture drone video of the boy surfing.