Hundreds of loved ones gathered Thursday in Coronado to remember a beloved surfing coach and father of six who died after losing consciousness in the waters off Point Loma.
Stan Searfus, 56, was an integral part of the Coronado community, evident by the number of people who showed up at a memorial for the surfer less than a 12 hours after he died on a dock in Point Loma as paramedics tried to save his life.
As a father of six children — including to two young twins — a husband to wife Jan, a lifeguard and a surf coach at both Coronado High and Coronado Middle schools, there was no shortage of loved ones to comment on the impact Searfus left behind at the memorial dubbed "One Last Sunset with Stan."
Searfus' passion was the ocean, a place that Clark Salverom was looking to as a place of closure just hours after his stepfather's death.
"I know he loved me," Salverom said. "I'll always remember whenever I go into the ocean that he’s the one that taught me how to surf and that he’ll always be in the ocean with me when I’m there."
During the memorial, about two dozen students paddled out towards the sunset as a tribute to Searfus.
"The paddle out, it was just like, releasing what everyone was feeling inside and we all said what we loved about Stan," 12-year-old surfer Luke Johnson said.
Johnson attended the Blue Wave Coronado Surf Camp, a camp founded by Searfus to pass on the talent of surfing to youth, according to an online fundraising page created by Lindsay Maphet. The GoFundMe page aims to help his family as they cope with his untimely death.
“His spirit just really encouraged me to keep on surfing and it was just a super fun time at that summer camp,” Johnson said. "If the surf is bad, he makes it the best experience ever; his spirit it was just amazing."
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."
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.
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.
At the start of the remembrance, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey led the crowd in prayer at sunset. He was a close friend to Searfus and says the crowd of about 500 people gathered for an impromptu memorial is a sign of his impact.
"It really just speaks to the impact he had on the entire community," Bailey said. "He really did have an infectious love and happiness.
"He always had a smile and was always full of love, and that’s irreplaceable."