Hawaiian big-wave surfer Sion Milosky was not seen for up to 20 minutes after he wiped out at the famous Maverick’s surfing break Wednesday, authorities said Thursday.
Milosky, the 35-year-old father of two daughters, was pronounced dead less than an hour after emergency crews responded to Maverick’s Beach at 6:51 p.m., according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, which released more details about the accident Thursday.
After wiping out, Milosky disappeared for up to 20 minutes and was later found “tethered to his surf board and floating face down,” deputies said. According to his sponsor, Volcom, after he wiped out two more waves rolled over him, holding him down.
He was rushed to shore on a personal watercraft. On the beach, fellow surfers performed CPR. Emergency crews arrived and rushed Milosky to Seton Coastside Emergency Room, where he was pronounced dead at 7:46 p.m., deputies said.
The death has shocked the surfing world. News of the drowning spread quickly on the Internet, including on Twitter posts from Surfing Life magazine and ESPN Surf.
Milosky recently gained fame for catching the biggest wave ever paddled into during a surfing competition in the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, according to Surfing Magazine.
He had traveled to Maverick’s from Hawaii with friends. He arrived at the beach around 2 p.m., friends told deputies. Wave faces reportedly measured between 25 and 40 feet, but conditions were rough.
"Words can’t begin to describe how saddened we are by this loss," said a statement released by Volcom. "Sion’s first passion was his wife and kids and surfing giant waves was his second. If Sion set out to do something he would do it, no questions asked."
Volcom set up a donation fund for Milosky’s family.
In an interview with Surfing Magazine in November, Milosky expressed his passion for chasing massive waves. When he was not surfing, Milosky ran a custom driveway gate and welding company, according to the magazine.
“Thank God that there aren’t good waves every day, ’cause I still have to run my business to survive,” he said during the interview. “I’m super focused on pushing the sport of big-wave surfing.”
In a separate interview with Tracks Magazine, Milosky described what it was like to be underwater following a major wipeout. He discussed his wipe out at the tail end of the epic big wave that made him famous.
“Every time you get a big wipeout, it’s totally slow motion,” he said, adding that he got pretty lucky after that wave.
“The whole thing is you want to stay calm and relax,” he continued. “That kind of stuff, it takes a lot of experience ... a lot of luck involved too. Anything can happen, you never know.”
Milosky was not the first surfer to perish at Maverick’s. In 1994, famous surfer Mark Foo drowned there in a surfing accident.
In January, Southern California surfer Jacob Trette survived a wipeout at Mavericks, though he lost consciousness.
"Hazardous and changing conditions are a constant when there are waves at Mavericks, and it's a very dangerous place," said Cary Smith, deputy harbormaster at the nearby Pillar Point Harbor.
Bay City News contributed to this report