Emergency officials are urging beachgoers to take caution when venturing into the ocean since a young man remains missing after being swept out to sea Monday and a seasoned surfer from El Granada died Sunday.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday they believe the missing man could be 25-year-old Brisbane resident Michael Dwyer, whose family notified authorities he didn’t return home after a visit to the beach.
The incident was first reported around 1:30 p.m. at Dunes State Beach in Half Moon Bay when a man wearing black board shorts was seen being swept out by strong ocean currents. A good Samaritan in a boat attempted to assist the man, but was unsuccessful, said Lt. j.g. Steven Dross.
The U.S. Coast Guard searched for the young man by deploying a helicopter and two lifeboats until sunset on the day of his disappearance but decided not to resume the search Tuesday morning, Dross said.
The Sheriff’s Office and public safety personnel from California State Parks continued to search the shoreline Tuesday and located a 2004 Jeep Wrangler in a nearby parking lot that was registered to Dwyer, said San Mateo County sheriff’s Detective Sal Zuno.
A family member noted Dwyer would often visit the beach and became concerned when he didn’t return home prompting them to report him missing around 11 p.m. Monday night, Zuno said.
Zuno said they’re unable to confirm whether Dwyer was the person who was seen in the water and Dross said anyone with information is asked to come forward.
“We’re trying to remain positive and hoping that he walked away,” Zuno said, adding a tip of caution for beachgoers. “Be aware of the ocean, respect the ocean, don’t turn your back on the ocean when you’re standing at the waterline. The ocean and the waves can always be unpredictable and rogue waves are called rogue waves for a reason,” Zuno said.
Although there were no surf advisories in place at the time of the man’s disappearance, Dross noted Monday’s incident should be a reminder for people to be cautious.
“For people going out in the water in general during those conditions, you just have to be very careful and this case definitely highlights that. When people go in the water, you have to be careful,” Dross said.
But even experienced watermen can take an unexpected turn.
Richard “Rocky” Coursen, 65, was pronounced dead at Seton Hospital in Daly City Sunday after a group of surfers found him unconscious in the water at Surfers Beach in El Granada, according to officials with the Coroner’s Office and Coastside Fire Protection District.
Despite undergoing CPR and life-saving measures, Coursen died shortly after being in the water just south of Pillar Point Harbor, said Battalion Chief David Cosgrave.
Coursen, loved to surf after starting about 15 years ago, reportedly had a heart attack and had undergone surgery two years prior, said Chris Loeswick, a Pacifica resident and friend of Coursen.
“He just kept surfing and doing his thing, doing what he loved,” Loeswick said. “It was kind of ironic, he had one of the best hearts metaphorically, but physically he had a bad heart.”
Loeswick said the two would regularly exchange positive affirmations and he had been texting with Coursen just before he went surfing. Coursen, who recently completed constructing his dream retirement house and moved in with his girlfriend, was in an extremely upbeat place at the time of his death, Loeswick said.
“This was from Sunday at 8:47 a.m.,” Loeswick said before sharing one of Coursen’s final text messages. “’Today is humming and buzzing and shimmering with possibility! I’m still and humble, patient and powerful, creating love community and happiness for every being!’”
Loeswick said it’s hard to say he’s mourning as his friend died not only doing what he loved, but was in a positive emotional state just before his death.
“It’s sad to lose him, but I just was so proud of the person he had become,” Loeswick said.
This week’s recent incidents along the San Mateo County coastline follow the death of 60-year-old Pacifica resident Larry Moore last month. Moore was with his wife when she was reportedly swept away by a sneaker wave near the Pacifica Pier. The woman had been rescued by the time emergency crews arrived and a Coast Guard helicopter crew pulled Moore out of the water. The Pacifica resident was later pronounced dead.
Although emergency officials couldn’t confirm whether there’s been an uptick in water rescues or hazards since El Niño, they urged visitors and surfers to remain alert.
“Any time people enter the water they should take caution. Right now, we’re getting winter seas but we’re having summer weather,” Cosgrave said. “So it looks nice on the outside, but there’s a lot of movement in the water itself with the currents.”
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