Photos and story by Jennifer Balak. Intro by John Streit.


While it’s our speciality to document the action in the surf around the Mid-Atlantic region, it’s rare that surf-related news makes its way into the mainstream media outlets. The fact is that most of the news-consuming public don’t know the difference between a cutback and a duck dive; so it takes a pretty remarkable story to bring surfing into the limelight. The recent shark attack on Mick Fanning during the WSL contest at Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa is a prime example of surfing receiving intense media exposure — albeit perpetuating a myriad of shark stereotypes in the process. Another unfortunate stereotype is that surfers are rebellious slackers more concerned on catching their next wave and a buzz than contributing to the fabric of society. Dr. Tyler Balak, our longest-tenured Surf & Adventure team rider, has made a habit of exploding these kinds of stereotypes over the years. While his steady climb up the academic ladder speaks volumes about his intelligence and work ethic; his recent heroics in the surf resonated far and wide as the Old Dominion University professor successfully rescued an infant deer from the dangerous waters off of Buxton, N.C. on Friday, July 31. The story first broke in this Virginian-Pilot article covering the once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounter and has since spread to the perhaps the biggest-name tabloid in all of media: People Magazine! Of course, these outlets have rigorous space constraints, so it’s our pleasure to give you a more complete version of the story straight from eyewitness Jennifer Balak, Tyler’s wife, who was photographing the surf session when Balak noticed the deer swimming well past the breakers. It’s an incredible story that proves that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.


By Jennifer Balak


My husband, Tyler Balak, and I went to Cape Hatteras on July 31, 2015 to go surfing. Tyler noticed something bobbing in the water about 100 yards from shore in Buxton while he was surfing and thought it was a small dog. When he got closer it turned out to be a fawn!


The baby deer was clearly exhausted and was fighting to keep its head above water. Tyler swam to it, cradled it in his arms, and swam to shore with it. We’re unsure of how long the fawn was in the ocean but knew it was exhausted because it went limp when Tyler held it as he swam in with it. Several people on the shore thought it was a shark at first glance but to everyone’s surprise it was a baby deer. Everyone on the beach grabbed their cell phones to snap a quick photo or two. We were so surprised that a shark didn’t get to the deer before Tyler did, especially since it seemed to have been out there for some time. People on the beach called the Parks services to see if someone could come out and bring the deer to safety. We wrapped the fawn in some beach towels and waited on the shore.


After nearly an hour, no one came so we tracked down an address in Frisco for a rescue center to bring the fawn. It is called Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation. We jumped into Tyler’s truck, drove over and bought the deer to the shelter that rehabilitates any injured animals in the area. Our friends Barry Price and Audrey Jones helped keep the animal warm and calm on the beach and on the ride over. Lou Browning was waiting at the end of the road when we arrived and seemed optimistic that the deer will be able to be nursed back to health. We knew it was a really young fawn because its spots were still visible indicating that it was less than four months old.

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