Monday, January 14, 2008

Telesis File : California Big Wave Surfer And Mavrerick's Pioneer Loses Life At Ghost Tree

Monterey local Peter Davi drowns in giant surf Although no one is exactly certain of how Peter Davi died, after talking with numerous people who were at Ghost Tree on Tuesday, December 4th, as well as friends of Davi's, we've managed to piece together a clearer picture of both who Davi was as well as what happened out there. Davi and Tashnick paddled their ten-foot guns out around 10am from Stillwater Cove. By this point, the lineup had about a dozen tow teams and six PWCs with photographers as well as dozens of people lining the cliff. The swell was inconsistent but somewhere in the 30 to 50 foot range. They sat on the shoulder and Tashnick successfully paddled into one or two waves, while Davi paddled into a few he couldn't catch. (While Davi and others first paddle-surfed here in the early eighties, as old surf buddy and fellow Monterey local Brent Bispo explained, "there's not much space out there. If you don't make the drop, you're on the rocks, so we ended up exploring some other big-wave spots in the area.") After an hour and a half, Davi paddled out to the lineup where the tow teams were. "I'm 45 years old and I want to get one of these waves," he told Kelly Sorenson, one of the PWC drivers and Monterey-area surf shop owner. Santa Cruz surfer Randy Reyes, who was partnered up with Davi's old friend Anthony Ruffo, offered to tow Davi into a couple waves on his gun. Davi successfully rode one, and then when a helicopter showed up on the scene, he said he was over it. (Davi was never a fan of the media circus.) Reyes and Ruffo offered him a ride to shore, but he declined, saying he wanted to catch one more by paddling. Davi paddled in towards the inside, and here's where things are still muddled. No one is sure whether he tried to catch a wave and wiped out or if he was caught inside. Either way, his leash snapped at the base and he ended up swimming on the inside. One report is that Davi started swimming towards shore and made it a couple hundred yards through the swirl and the chop and the whitewater to the two giant rock islands outside Stillwater Cove. "Davi knew every inch of this stretch of coast," explained Bispo. "He was 6'2", super strong, and extremely strong-willed." But by the time he got towards the rocks, he was lost to anyone on the cliff who was able to see. (Due to the nature of the swell, the tow teams out the back couldn't have seen him swimming that far in.) Meanwhile, the lineup was getting more and more packed, and tow teams Osh Bartlett and Peter Garaway and Ruffo and Reyes decided to come in together and head up to a less crowded zone. "We made it to the beach first, then Reyes and Ruffo came jamming back in and said they saw a body," Bartlett said. "Ruffo and I yelled at someone to call 911 and jammed back out into Stillwater Cove." "Davi was lying face down in a 10'x10' patch of kelp," Bartlett continued. "Ruffo got him and lifted him onto by rescue sled, which we were lucky we had, 'cause he's a big dude. You could see he'd been out there a while, he was white and really stiff. We motored in as fast as we could, and by the time we got to the beach (about 2 minutes) the paramedics were already on their way down the hill. They administered oxygen and sucked the fluid from his lungs, but it was too late." The official cause of death is drowning, but the coroner also found head trauma. Davi was a third generation commercial fisherman; his grandfather was a legendary captain from Monterey's Cannery Row glory days who ran 90-foot fishing boats. Davi took on the family career full-time after high school; he'd work on herring boats for a couple months, save a bunch of money and head to the North Shore for the winter, where he spent years cracking into the super-tight Pipe hierarchy. "We'd squid fish all night in the summers," remembers Bispo. "Then we could surf all day. Pete's whole life was centered on the ocean. He was either surfing, out on a boat or walking around collecting jade; he had a huge jade collection." By all accounts, Davi was a local's local. "If he liked you, he'd give you the shirt off his back," Bispo continued. "If he didn't, watch out." Makua Rothman, who won the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing Tuesday at maxing Sunset Beach, said this about his final wave: "Unfortunately, one of my friends never made it today in California, and he just sent me that wave. So this is for bruddah Pete Davi. All you guys who don't know, he passed away today. Aloha bruddah, we love you." He leaves behind a 17-year-old son. -- Marcus Sanders/

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