In Memoriam | Brian Ellis Daily: 1957-2022

Brian Ellis Daily was born on June 26, 1957, in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, the third child behind his siblings, Marla and Gordon. Two years later, the family moved to Santa Barbara where his father, a research psychologist, had been transferred. Unbeknownst to the family, the house they rented sight unseen at 226 East Mountain Drive was the central hub of Bobby Hyde’s Mountain Drive Bohemian community.

In 1963 the Daily family moved to a home they bought on Middle Road. Less than a year later, the Coyote Fire burned through the Mountain Drive community, and their Middle Road house served for weeks as the evacuation hub for the Mountain Drive-rs, with families, friends, children, and several dozen cats, dogs, and horses spread out over the property. At age 7, Brian delighted in being the morning doughnut passer-outer.

With the move to Middle Road, Brian began surfing at Hammond’s and attended Montecito Union followed by Laguna Blanca. When it came time for high school — and with her elder daughter at UCSB — the now divorced Natalie Daily decided her sons should be bicultural and bilingual, so in 1968 she packed her children and a AAA road map into her blue 1965 Mustang and drove to Guadalajara, Mexico, where she rented a house and enrolled the boys in summer school. This routine continued until the summer of 1973 when she kept on driving — to San Jose, Costa Rica. Natalie had learned of an incredible, private high school called Country Day, run by the finest teachers imported from the U.S. and financed by the American criminal financier, Robert Vesco, to educate his children. Gordon and Brian were enrolled as soon as they arrived. Two years later, Natalie and Gordon returned to Santa Barbara, but Brian chose to stay and live with a local family. At school he assembled and sold Italian submarine sandwiches to the students at lunchtime to finance his weekend bus tickets in search of surf spots. Costa Rica’s “pura vida” was infused into his veins.

Water-baby through and through, after graduation from Country Day, Brian returned to Santa Barbara and built his first dive boat, Tamarindo. Tamarindo was lost in the Potato Patch between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands, when his heavy load of urchins shifted. By incredible circumstance, a UCSB researcher was at Fraser Point, saw the boat flip over, summoned help from Just Love anchored in Forney’s Cove, and Brian was rescued.

Next came Brian’s Wilson dive boat, Ysleña. After years of service, he towed the boat north to dive near Fort Bragg. With Brian underwater gathering urchins, the boat dragged anchor, his air hose wrapped around the propeller, and Ysleña went on the rocks. Brian swam to safety, and the vessel was salvaged. Brian moved on to purchase Deborah Ann, an aft-cabin Radon. He sold the vessel when an opportunity came up to buy his most recent dive boat, Jan Marie.

In October 1987, a friend asked Brian if he would “sit in” for him on a dive to San Nicolas Island — his wife was expected to give birth. Always one to help a friend, Brian agreed. While returning from the island in heavy seas, Bounty’s load shifted and the vessel sank midway between San Nicolas and Santa Cruz islands with three divers aboard. One mayday went out at 6 p.m. It was picked up by the Vail & Vickers crew aboard Vaquero II while on a cattle run down the back side of Santa Cruz Island — then silence. The crew relayed the mayday to the U.S. Coast Guard, who later informed the family it was dark and too late to initiate a search.

The following Halloween morning, with private aircraft arranged by Brian’s siblings from Channel Islands Aviation, Aspen Helicopters, and fish-spotter pilot Johan Huelman, two of the three Bounty divers were spotted treading water in heavy seas just before noon the following day. Brian had tied a bright hot pink swordfish buoy on a long rope to his ankle, which led to their discovery. Green dye packets were thrown from the spotter plane, the location was relayed to a Coast Guard helicopter, and within the hour the two survivors were lifted from the water. The third diver was never found. Through binoculars, Brian’s siblings anxiously watched from separate circling planes as the helicopter lifted two men out of the heavy seas in a hoist. When Brian’s blonde hair reflected in the midday sun, we knew — Brian had survived. The Coast Guard said it was an unprecedented rescue 16 hours after a mayday.

It was in 1988 that Brian bought his first of several parcels on the Osa Peninsula in Cabo Mata Palo, Costa Rica, home to the premier surf spot Backwash Bay. Thus Encanta La Vida was born. Spanish for “enchanted life,” it literally translates to “loving life.” Brian began building his dream — a relaxed jungle adventure lodge that was home to monkeys and macaws, coatis and sloths, with a front yard expanse of exceptional surf. For more than 30 years Brian shared his love of the jungle and his simple Costa Rican way of life — Pura Vida.

Ten months after being diagnosed with metastasized spinal melanoma, Brian died on August 23, 2022, at his home in Carpinteria. He was predeceased in death by his son, Tyler (1995-2015). He leaves behind his siblings, Marla and Gordon, and an incredible community of best and beloved friends: Kirk, Katie, Yorleney, Steven, Timmy, Larry, Pat, Maire, Danny, Karen, Shane, Pierre, Carlos, Marco, Harry, Laura, Bill, Cory, and many others. A paddle out and fishermen’s parade of boats, followed by a gathering at the Carriage Museum, is being planned.


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