Campus Point off UC Santa Barbara | Credit: Courtesy

As I write this, it’s been 48 hours since I saw fellow surfer, Larry Kong, get a beautiful set wave all the way from “Poles” to the stairs at Campus Point. That was Larry’s last wave of his life. I’m still processing the event.

I passed him as he was smiling, paddling back. I caught a small wave, and then, when I kicked out and started paddling back up the point, I noticed something was wrong. Very wrong. When I got up to him, he was floating facedown. I pulled him on top of my board, and turned him over to clear his airways. It was scary and spiritually surreal as I tried to press on his chest, shake him, and revive him.

At first I thought he was moving, but that must’ve just been me moving him. I swam him in on top of my board. It was very quiet. The ocean had turned completely calm. Although it felt like an eternity, it probably only took a couple minutes to get to the beach.

As I pulled him up to the beach, someone from the cliff had called 9-1-1, and they were approaching me as I performed CPR. And it took another 10-15 minutes for fire and rescue to show up. They took over and started asking me a bunch of questions as they cut off Larry’s wetsuit with scissors. Someone ran a defibrillator down the beach to Larry.

I stepped back for a moment and looked at in the break, and I saw his paddle floating there. And I remembered how when I first got to him, the feeling was so surreal. While we were alone, my thoughts were for him to make it, but if he didn’t, I hoped he would go to heaven. Looking back, although it was pretty traumatic, It was also a gift to be next to someone as their soul passes on into eternity and leaves their body.

Fire Captain Adam Estabrook told me the odds were unlikely that Larry was going to make it. Adam was very intuitive and comforting, telling me that I did all the right things and that I gave Larry a “chance” to survive. Because I was thinking what else could I have done? Adam picked up on my self-doubt, saying there’s not much you can do when they’re in the water. You first have to get them to the beach. All it takes is one kind word, something you don’t often get from an official. It can change the way you feel or don’t feel for months after an incident. So I really have to thank Adam for that humane gesture.

I began to feel it was okay, and I actually went back in the water for a few minutes, just to kind of shake it off, as they were wrapping things up with Larry. Some of the cops were still asking me and anyone else around there questions. I got in my car feeling okay, especially after I talked with some of Larry’s friends and everybody said they were glad he got such a good last wave.

Driving home I suddenly burst into tears. For no apparent reason. I just wept. I pulled over my car, and I wrote down all the things I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then I wrote of many of the things I wanted to stop doing — the relatively meaningless daily tasks and exercises I was doing each day that weren’t that fulfilling. I vowed to free up more time to do the things that I love to do.

You never know when your last day is or when you’re going to get your last ride. At least Larry Kong left this earth doing what he truly loved. Being out in nature on the water riding the playful energy of a wave from our creator.
Not a bad way to enter paradise.
Blessings, Larry.


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