Wednesday, December 5, 2007
An accomplished local surfer who lived for monster waves died Tuesday at Ghost Trees, a Monterey County surf spot known for its potent swells and dangerous conditions.
Peter Davi, 45, one of the area's most beloved watermen, apparently lost his board and attempted to swim to shore, according to fellow surfers. He was later found floating in the water unconscious and was pronounced dead around 1:30 p.m., the Monterey County coroner's office said.
His death devastated Santa Cruz and Monterey surfers, many of whom had ventured to Ghost Trees on Tuesday in search of big waves.
"Pete was well-loved and well-respected worldwide," said Anthony Ruffo, one of Davi's best friends, who was at the surf spot Tuesday. "People from everywhere are calling. He'll be so missed. He's the diplomat of surfing. He was an anchor and a bridge between Santa Cruz and Monterey surfers."
"He's my friend," Ruffo said, "and I'm going to miss him so much."
Also at Ghost Trees was Tyler Smith, a professional surfer from Santa Cruz who said the wave faces were as big as 60 to 70 feet, "almost as big as we've seen out there."
"It could be the biggest swell we see all season," said Smith, a competitor in the Maverick's contest held in the waters off of Half Moon Bay. "It was really dangerous. It's big, and it breaks right in front of these rocks. It was big, and it was really tall."
At least 15 personal watercraft were circling in the water, Smith said, some carrying surfers and others carrying surf photographers. Big-wave riders often use such watercraft to tow each other into big surf and then snatch each other out of danger after a ride or a fall.
Smith said he believed Davi, who was the size of a football lineman, was paddling into waves and may have run into trouble after the leash tethering him to his board broke.
"It's super-sad, man," Smith said. "He was a gentle giant who surfed for his whole life. Everybody knew him. He was kind of like the godfather."
Davi's friends said that he was a fisherman and that his son Jake, who is also a well-known surfer, was on his way to California late Tuesday from Hawaii.
"I'm just kind of tripped out," said Anthony Tashnick, a Santa Cruz surfer and Maverick's competitor who surfed side-by-side with Davi on Tuesday. "Peter was one of the founders of that area. He's been surfing it for years. He's a legendary local."
Davi's death comes days before the waiting period opens for the big-wave surf contest at Maverick's. Davi was an early participant in the contest.
Chronicle staff writer Julian Guthrie contributed to this report. E-mail Demian Bulwa at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle