A runner and yoga teacher with a near constant smile, Rhiannon Hull's lifelong athleticism may have given her the strength she needed to keep her 6-year-old child's head above water just long enough to hand him to a surfer.
The 33-year-old Healdsburg woman died last week after being swept out to sea while swimming with her son at a beach in Costa Rica.
"She made such a huge impact in so little time," said Hull's husband, Norman Hull, 35, of Healdsburg.
Norman Hull and their 8-year-old son Gianni had mid-November plane tickets to join them in Costa Rica, where Rhiannon Hull was forming a Waldorf school.
On Friday, Hull and her son Julian were playing in waist-deep water at Playa Avellanas on the Pacific Coast during a low tide, her husband said.
He believes they may have stepped off an ocean ledge into deeper water.
A strong current swept Hull and her son about 100 yards from shore.
The beach was nearly empty except for two 16-year-old boys, he said. When the boys noticed Hull yelling and waving her arms, one of them paddled out on a surf board.
Hull was holding her son to keep his head above water when he reached them.
"The surfer grabbed her son and by the time he turned back around she was gone," said Scott Keneally, a close friend from Healdsburg. "She had exhausted all her energy waiting for help and saving her son."