In the late afternoon hours Wednesday, tragedy struck as infamous Northern California big-wave spot Maverick's took the life of 35-year-old Hawaiian surfer Sion Milosky.
Originally from Kalaheo, Kauai, Milosky was an underground charger for most of his career who nevertheless commanded considerable respect at big-wave breaks around the world.
It's been speculated that he paddled into one of the biggest waves ever, an outer-reef bomb in Hawaii that's been sized at "30-foot Hawaiian," which means it was at least 60 feet by normal standards. Earlier this year he caught one of the waves of the winter at Pipeline, and before that he signed a healthy endorsement deal with Volcom.
With a late-season northwest swell in the water, on a day that Surfline.com was calling 18 to 20 feet with occasional 25-foot set waves, Milosky had reportedly been charging all day, riding some of the best waves that came through.
Out late trying to get one last set wave, he took off on a bomb and got rolled. He was found in the water 20 minutes later, beyond help at that point.
"We did respond to a possible drowning; the victim was taken by ambulance to Seton Coastside Medical," said San Mateo County fire Capt. Laurie Borelli.
Officials at Seton Coastside Medical Center in Half Moon Bay confirmed that Milosky had arrived there, and a report on MerceryNews.com confirmed that he "drowned after enduring a two-wave hold down around 6:30 p.m., according to Maverick's surfer Ken Collins, with whom Milosky was staying in Santa Cruz."
"Collins said Nathan Fletcher, who had traveled to Santa Cruz with Milosky, went looking for Milosky on a Jet Ski shortly after he fell," the story goes on to say. "Collins said Fletcher found Milosky's body at the Half Moon Bay Harbor mouth, about a mile from the break, 20 minutes after the incident."
Hawaii's Sean Moody posted on Twitter, "I don't even know what to say. One of the best humans I've ever met. RIP Sion."
Echoing a similar sentiment, big-wave queen Maya Gabeira tweeted, "Very sad news … we lost an amazing waterman true hero! Sion Milosky RIP! I'm speechless."
Despite Maverick's reputation as a fearsome big-wave break, Milosky's death is just the second big-wave surfing fatality there. The first occurred Dec. 23, 1994, when another notable Hawaiian waterman, Mark Foo, drowned. Wednesday's tragedy comes on the heels of Jacob Trette's near-fatal hold down at Maverick's on Jan. 25, 2011.