When University of Miami senior Daniel Thompson was a sophomore studying abroad in Australia, he was given the nickname “Danger” by friends.
It proved to be a fitting nickname as he braved rough waters during the trip and saved two surfers’ lives.
The event occurred in March 2008. Thompson, an avid surfer, was with his friend Tim Smith on a local beach in Melbourne, debating whether the waves were good enough to surf.
“It was kind of sloppy,” Thompson said. “You want it really quite perfect.”
Thompson noticed three men going into the ocean with one surfboard. He and Smith realized something was wrong when they saw just the surfboard and none of the men holding onto it.
The men then started waving their hands, and Thompson and Smith ran to the water.
“[We decided to] stick together and go for the furthest guy first,” Thompson said. “I grabbed the guy that was furthest out and I thought he was going to panic and pull me in the current, but he was actually pretty calm.”
The other two men were in a more dire situation.
“Tim swam for the other two. I dropped the other guy off at shore and then went after the two guys,” Thompson said. “By the time we reached the other two, one guy was pretty much dead, and the other guy was just holding on to his buddy.”
Thompson called for an emergency medical technician while Smith and two women on the beach attempted CPR to save the man in distress. It was to no avail.
The other two men would survive the experience, thanks in part to the quick thinking and composure of Thompson. This summer he was awarded a medal from the Australian Royal Humane Society for his efforts.
For the man known as “Danger,” this isn’t atypical behavior. The friends he met while in Australia considered him a friendly, adventurous person.
“Dan was an amazing friend. He was always willing to help,” said Christianne Tam, one of the friends Thompson met abroad in Singapore. “I don’t think I know anybody who doesn’t like him.”
Thompson doesn’t feel he has changed too much since the rescue of those surfers, which he admits is “not [his] favorite subject.”
He still loves to kayak, scuba dive and hike in addition to his passion for surfing.
“If anything it made me think differently about watching other people,” he said. “It made me more aware.”
As for Daniel “Danger” Thompson, his helping hand doesn’t necessarily make him a hero, at least not in his mind.
“It’s what surfers do in situations like that,” he said. “It’s what anyone would do.”