SAUSALITO (CBS SF) — Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Krystyna Duffy became the fourth active female surfman in the service during a ceremony at Coast Guard Station Golden Gate in Sausalito Friday.
The presentation ceremony was held at 9 a.m. Friday at Coast Guard Station Golden Gate at 435 Murray Circle in Sausalito.
The surfman designation is the highest rank in Coast Guard small boat operation and allows rescue boat coxswains to operate in extreme weather and sea conditions.
The 31-year-old Duffy said her promotion to surfman has been her goal for more than a decade.
“Dreams don’t care about gender,” Duffy said. “If you want something badly enough, and you’re willing to fight for it, you can do it.”
Chief Warrant Officer Beth Slade, the commanding officer of Station Golden Gate and the first woman to ever earn the surfman qualification for the 47-foot lifeboat presented Duffy’s award.
The surfman title dates back more than 200 years to the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
Duffy is a wife and the mother of two children.
In 2011, Duffy contemplated quitting, finding it hard to balance family and career.
“It’s been a struggle, but it’s nothing that I wanted to give up that easy. I just wanted to push forward and make it happen,” explained the new surfman.
Slade helped reassure her.
“When you come in not trying to be somebody, but just being you, and you build that camaraderie with your crew, they’re going to take care of you and see you succeed,” explained Slade “She just came in and said there’s no barriers here and showed that she is just as capable.”
Duffy is now qualified to take a 47-foot motor lifeboat out in 20-foot breaking surf with 30-foot seas and 50-knot winds that reach the boat’s operational limits.
“It’s very demanding, but it’s not anything that’s impossible, obviously,” said Duffy. “And there have been other people that have done it before me. So I’m so grateful to have completed this process.”
Duffy said Slade has been her mentor for years and receiving the award from Slade makes her achievement amazing.
“I emailed her years ago before I even knew her and asked for advice on becoming a surfman,” Duffy said. “She told me no matter what, never give up. She was the one who blazed the trail for the rest of us to follow.”
Duffy says she doesn’t consider herself a role model, but she said she is looking forward to helping other young petty officers rise through the ranks the way Slade helped her.
There are currently only 155 surfmen — men and women — serving in the United States Coast Guard.
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