Piscataway teacher rescues swimmer

Piscataway teacher saves swimmer and captures rescue on video
Posted on 09/11/2023
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A Piscataway Township Schools teacher is being lauded as a hero for diving into action on Labor Day weekend to save a swimmer who was being pulled into the deep water off Long Beach Island by dangerous rip currents.


Steve Houser is a special education history teacher in Piscataway’s PATHS program (Pupils Achieving Their Highest Standards), a Marine veteran, and an avid surfer. He was wearing a GoPro action camera to film a surfing video, so he caught the entire rescue on video and has gotten worldwide attention for his selfless actions.


As a teacher, he is hoping the news media attention and detailed video can be used as an educational tool about rip currents and water safety.


“Hopefully I can help save other lives through the video to provide awareness for people,” he said. “Who knows how many people this will reach. It already reached a national level and is starting to go global.”


The incident started on Sunday, Sept. 3, in the town of Harvey Cedars while Houser was working with his daughter on a video using a boogie board from Tandm Surf, one of the sponsors of his YouTube Channel about surfing. He noticed the water was getting especially rough from rip currents and was taking his son and daughter out of the ocean.


“I was getting really uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s time to get out, it’s getting too rough.”


Then he noticed a group of people who were too far out from the beach and were struggling to get back.


“I could tell right away, those people were stuck,” Houser said. “They were stuck in the rip current being sucked out. I could see it. I know what it looks like and when they need help.


“I already had the board in my hand so I just went for it. There was a good football field between the lifeguard on the stand and those people in the water.”

teacher with boogie board


So Houser, who had swim training in the Marines, took his boogie board and swam out to the group. One man in particular, Gabe McCabe, was in trouble.


“One of the guys was calling for help and waving his hands,” Houser said. “He was panicking. And I know when you’re panicking in that situation, you’ve got only a matter of seconds.”


When Houser arrived, McCabe latched onto his oversized boogie board, which has handles and is meant to be used by two people together.


With McCabe hanging on, Houser swam them both back to the beach.


“I was aiming for the waves on purpose to ride them in. We took a really gnarly hit, it slammed us on the sandbar. But I looked, and he was still hanging on. It was so chaotic.


“He was super thankful. He’s such a nice guy. It was nice to meet him and his family afterwards.”


As for the video, it was the last thing on Houser’s mind.


“I had no idea I was even filming. I forgot the camera was still filming.”


It’s not the first time Houser has helped save someone in trouble in the ocean, but because the whole incident was captured on video, Houser has been inundated with news media attention. The rescue has been covered by Good Morning America, Fox News, News 12 NJ, the Asbury Park Press, the BBC, PBS, and others.


“It’s a good teaching tool,” he said. “What better visual tool than actually seeing it.”

teacher with boogie board


Houser, who is starting his sixth year as a teacher in Piscataway, also sees it as something he can use to teach his own students.


“I always try to tell my students: Do the right thing at the right time,” he said. “I think it’s a good teaching opportunity. We can educate and show people if you’re in a situation where you can help somebody, definitely do it.


“I think every teacher is like that. They want to help, they want to provide, they want to be good community members.”

Good Morning America
Fox News
Fox Weather
New York Post
News 12 NJ
Asbury Park Press
Daily Voice


Houser has wanted to be a teacher since he was young. However, he also wanted to be a Marine, especially after growing up in the era of 9/11, which had a heavy impact on him as a teen.


“In high school, my history teacher was a Vietnam veteran,” he said. “I remember going up to him, and saying, ‘I want to be you one day.’ Just to have that presence to have a veteran teaching history.”


He joined the Marines out of high school in 2006 and served in the Marines and Marine Reserves until 2014. In the meantime, he also went to college and was certified to teach history. During a deployment on a peace-keeping mission to Morocco in 2011, Houser went surfing for the first time, and fell in love with the sport.


“I picked it up really quick and I got really dedicated,” he said. “It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Your whole life is based around the ocean.”


After his discharge with the rank of sergeant, Houser started out teaching at a private school in Pennsylvania and added a certification for special education. But there’s not a lot of surfing in Pennsylvania, so he convinced his wife Christine to move to New Jersey so he could be closer to the Shore. He just needed a new job – and he found “the perfect job” in Piscataway.


“To do the combo of special education and history, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect job,” Houser said. “Where I’m at in this program, I feel really connected to these kids. I struggled a lot when I was in school. I had an IEP and I was told by my principal – this was in the ’90s – that I wasn’t going to make it and wasn’t going to amount to anything.


“So I can really relate to having those emotional disabilities as a kid, and I’m able to really relate to these kids in smaller group instruction and giving them a lot of attention.”


Part of his classwork is studying current events, and one of the biggest news stories of Labor Day weekend in New Jersey involved their teacher.


“I had to put on the news, and I’m in every news highlight,” Houser said with a grin. “I didn’t say anything, I just put it on. And they were like, ‘Wait! That’s you!’ It was a shock to them.”