Season-high surf and rough ocean conditions from Hurricane Marie are being blamed for the death of a surfer Tuesday morning at Surfrider Beach.
According to eyewitnesses, the surfer’s drowning death near Malibu Pier occurred after lifeguards warned the victim, a male thought to be in his mid to late 40s, that conditions were not safe for unskilled surfers.
“A friend of mine saw a guy trying to paddle out to the shore break and he was having quite a difficult time,” said Steve Dunn, a Malibu resident and longtime surfer who was at Surfrider at the time.
It’s thought to be about 15 minutes after this, at 11:22 a.m. that lifeguards on the pier spotted the surfer floating in the water.
“We responded to an unconscious person in the water,” Lifeguard Captain Tim McNulty told The Malibu Times. McNulty confirmed that the victim remained unresponsive after lifeguards and other emergency responders attempted to resuscitate him. This was backed up by Dunn.
“I helped them carry him up on the beach, and he was gone. He’d been under water way too long,” said Dunn.
Lieutenant Seetoo at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station confirmed the death of the surfer on Tuesday, stating that he was pronounced dead shortly after being pulled from the water, either en route to Santa Monica Hospital or upon his arrival.
Dunn, a local who has been surfing near the Pier regularly since 1962, said conditions were noticeably rough on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s high surf came on the tail of a weekend of rough conditions brought on from Tropical Storm Lowell, which stirred up water enough to increase Malibu lifeguard rescues from a summer average of about 80 per weekend to over 250 from Aug. 24-25.
“We had the best swells of the summer today,” Dunn said, adding that Wednesday was expected to be even rougher.
This was confirmed by National Weather Service high surf advisories issued Monday, which warn that storm conditions from Hurricane Marie will create swells on Malibu’s south-facing beaches to increase throughout Tuesday and peak late Tuesday night.
Swimmers, surfers, paddle boarders and boaters should be prepared to "potentially see the largest surf seen in recent years with breakers of 10 to 15 feet possible" according to the NWS advisory.
Previous to Hurricane Marie, Tropical Storm Lowell created dangerous conditions at Malibu’s beaches over the weekend, including Latigo Beach, where a vacationing doctor and several lifeguards came to the aid of an injured paddleboarder.
“I noticed a surfboard out on the sand and a surfer stumble out of the water and lay down on the rocks,” said Dr. David Schiff, a physician from Encino renting a house in Malibu last week.
“I felt like he was not in good condition. He was laying there and the waves were pounding and I realized if I didn’t do something, he was going to be swept out,” said Schiff.
Lifeguard Tim Ryan confirmed the lifeguard rescue.
“The surf was pretty big and he put himself on a bad spot on the rocks,” said Ryan.
“We backboarded him to take him off the rocks,” said Ryan, who confirmed that Schiff was on the scene and assisting the victim.
“There was a doctor on scene … and the doctor was the one who was helping him,” said Ryan.
According to the victim, a man from Calabasas who asked to not be named, it was inexperienced surfers who knocked into him, causing him to hit rocks near Latigo Cove.
“I was out surfing, I got hit by another surfer, I got knocked up into the wash and broke two ribs,” said the man, who also said the accident tore his MCL.