A beloved surfer well known in the community was found unconscious in the waters off Point Loma early Friday and died as paramedics tried to save his life on a dock.
The surfer has now been identified by friends as Coronado resident Stan Searfus, 56. Searfus was a lifeguard in his community and the founder of the Blue Wave Coronado Surf Camp. He was also a surf coach at Coronado High School and Coronado Middle School, according to an online fundraising page created by Lindsay Maphet, a lifelong friend of Searfus. The GoFundMe page aims to help his family as they cope with his untimely death.
Maphet's page said Searfus leaves behind six children – including young twins – and his wife, Jan. The avid surfer is described by friends as an active and devoted member of the Coronado community, passionate about passing on the talent of surfing to youth.
“His selflessness and joy for life was absolutely tangible by anyone who was in his presence. After meeting him just once, he would call you his friend,” the GoFundMe page stated.
At around 6 a.m. Friday, San Diego Lifeguards launched a search by boat and air for Searfus after a friend reported him missing, canvassing the beach and waters along Lomaland Drive near Point Loma Nazarene University and Sunset Cliffs.
San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero said a friend who had been out surfing with Searfus called authorities to report that Searfus' boat had washed up on the beach but Searfus was nowhere to be found. When the friend realized Searfus was missing, he made his way back to his car to call for help.
Romero said the first few minutes of the search were difficult because it was pitch black outside and Searfus was wearing a black wetsuit. About 15 minutes later, as the sun came up, lifeguards found the surfer unconscious in the water, face-down, near some cliffs.
They pulled Searfus onto a rescue boat and began giving him CPR. He was then rushed by boat to a dock where paramedics were waiting to treat him.
Despite those efforts, Romero said paramedics declared him dead on the dock a short time later.
Romero said the surfer, as his friends later confirmed, was well-known by lifeguards and the surfing community.
The lieutenant said Searfus and his friend were the only ones in the water early Friday and had been using the buddy system for their morning surf session.
Officials did not immediately release further details about what led to Searfus' trouble in the water. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office will perform an autopsy to determine his cause and manner of death.
In addition to the GoFundMe page created by Maphet, the Coronado Surfing Association has also created an online tribute to Searfus where the community can make donations that will help his family.
"We have lost Stan Searfus... the entire Coronado community mourns the loss of his eternal optimism and energy," the tribute read. "There really are no words to express the sadness that comes to us today and we are just starting to process."
More than 500 members of the community gathered Thursday afternoon at Coronado Shores beach near Avenue De Las Arenas to remember Searfus, a showcase of the number of lives he touched.
At the memorial, called "One More Sunset with Stan" Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey led the crowd in prayer.
"It really just speaks to the impact he had on the entire community," Bailey said. "He really did have an infectious love and happiness."
Searfus and the mayor were friends. Bailey posted a tribute on his Facebook page to Searfus, calling him one of the community's "favorite sons" and a "local legend."
"I admired him greatly for the impact he had on our community and specifically, the impression he made on hundreds of young kids through his surfing camps," said Bailey.
The mayor said Searfus made Coronado a better place to live.