SAN FRANCISCO – A big wave rider died Tuesday at the unforgiving surf break known as Ghost Trees, a Monterey County spot known for its fast-moving waves, in a powerful swell reported as high as 37 feet.
Peter Davi, 45, of Monterey, lost his surfboard and was attempting to swim to shore, but never made it, witnesses told authorities. Friends of Davi lost sight of him and later found him floating in the water unconscious.
Monterey County Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis English said a department search and rescue team responded to a report of a surfer in distress, but that Davi was dead by the time the team got to Pebble Beach.
"It's just extremely high surf. Waves are crashing against the rocks, kind of dangerous," he said. "It's primo conditions for surfers."
According to the official Mavericks Web site, Davi was one of the early pack of brave surfers to test themselves at Mavericks after word got around about its massive waves.
Jeff Clark, the founder of the Mavericks surf contest, surfed Mavericks alone for 15 years before sharing his secret with close friends — including Davi. Clark described Davi as a "rambunctious big wave rider" and the two took a few surf trips together.
"He was one of the early guys that I was able to convince to come up and surf Mavericks with me. He was like blown away at how big a wave it was," Clark said.
Davi's death came just days before the waiting period was set to open for the big wave surf contest at Mavericks off the shore of Half Moon Bay, where equally large swells rolled in Tuesday.
The scary surf also attracted spectators who had to be chased off cliffside property in exclusive Pebble Beach, English said. California Highway Patrol officers were called in to ticket motorists who flooded the scenic 17-mile Drive.
A high surf advisory was in place for the coastal Bay Area Tuesday, issued by the National Weather Service. That meant dangerous surf and eager surfers along the popular Central Coast breaks.
In Santa Cruz, lifeguards had to evacuate at least four surfers from the Mitchell's Cove surf spot after high tide rolled in. Authorities confirmed they also rescued a nearly hypothermic man found face down about a quarter-mile off the coast of Capitola, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Further north, the U.S. Coast Guard and the San Mateo Sheriff's Department searched for a fishing vessel with two people aboard off Pillar Point.
Clark spoke about the dangers of taking to the waves on a day when advisories were in effect and rough swells were the norm along the coast.
"The ocean is a place that really has no conscience. It's something you have to be prepared for. You live your life to the fullest, do the best you can and keep going," a solemn Clark said.