With northwest winds whipping up waves higher than 3 feet just off the shoreline, Clearwater Beach lifeguards were busy Monday afternoon rescuing struggling swimmers.
Lifeguards brought in the first around 1:30 p.m. after the 25-year-old man was swept out roughly 90 yards from the shoreline.
As lifeguards gave him oxygen and called 911 so he could be taken by ambulance to Morton Plant Hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, they had to immediately turn around and drag in another swimmer.
An hour later, a third one was rescued. Then, near 4:30 p.m., they saved a fourth.
All the rescues occurred about 100 yards north of the south beach's main jetty in water about 8 feet deep.
Bob Baker, a 51-year-old lifeguard who has patrolled the shores for nearly a decade, said the swimmers were inexperienced and didn't "understand how strong the wind is."
"The first guy was barely breathing. He coughed up a lot of water and was very groggy," Baker said. "He didn't know where he was and couldn't talk."
He said right now, beachgoers shouldn't venture beyond waist-deep water and should "be aware of their surroundings at all times." He added that adults should take extra care in watching their children, too.
He said four near-drownings in one day is a record so far this year, but they've pulled at least four people out of the water in a day about a dozen times in the past decade.