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Legendary Big-Wave Surfer Sion Milosky Drowns at Mavericks

Mar 18, 2011 – 12:43 PM
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Mara Gay

Mara Gay Contributor

Sion Milosky had surfed waves just like this one before. But this time, the colossal wall of water at Mavericks plunged him deep into the ocean and would not let him go.

Milosky, a famed big wave surfer from Hawaii, died late Wednesday after wiping out and being caught in a two-wave hold-down off the coast of California's infamous Mavericks Beach, south of San Francisco. Other surfers watched on in horror as a rogue wave broke on top of 35-year-old Milosky, a fixture in the small, elite world of big-wave surfing.

"He was really deep and he makes the drop, and the end section comes and just explodes behind him as he straightens out," Chris Killen, a filmmaker who taped Milosky's final wave, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "I'm looking over just devastated. His head's flopping, and I could tell he was blue from far away."

In the moments after the wave broke, other surfers said they saw Milosky's board popping up out of the water, ominously. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nathan Fletcher, another big-wave surfer in the water at the time, jumped on a jet ski and sped toward the board in a bid to rescue Milosky. But 20 minutes later, Milosky's body was found floating face down in a nearby jetty.

"He looked perfect," fellow surfer Grant Washburn told the paper. "They'd removed his wetsuit, his eyes were closed, no apparent damage of any kind. Just a perfectly peaceful, healthy person. You felt like you could just jolt him back to life."

Other surfers tried to administer CPR, but Milosky, a husband and the father of two young daughters, was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 7:46 p.m., Lt. Ray Lunny of the San Mateo Sheriff's Office told AOL News today. The coroner said the official cause of death was drowning.

The waves at Mavericks can reach heights of 80 feet and draw big-wave surfers from around the world. Milosky's feats on the giant waves were chronicled in a 2010 video made by filmmaker Daniel Russo and posted by Surfing Magazine.

Thursday, despite the tragedy, surfers were back in Mavericks' massive barrels again. On the beach, the message "WE LOVE YOU DADDY" was scrawled in the sand, and appeared to have been written by Milosky's children, according to Half Moon Bay Patch.

Big-wave surfer Ken Collins, who witnessed the accident, said the wave that killed Milosky was at least 50 feet tall.

"This swell was really huge," he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "It was one of those swells that was really spread out. It was hard to see what was going on with everyone out there. [Milosky] had this huge smile on his face and just turned around and paddled into this 50- to 60-foot wave. That was the last time I saw him. The wave just sent him straight to heaven."
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