The surfing community is mourning the loss of a local father and husband described as a generous role model to many.
A relative of Stephen Fujii, 67, say he spent his last moments on earth doing one of the things he loved most: surfing.
He was found unresponsive Wednesday morning, lying by his surfboard stuck in the sand of La Jolla.
Lifeguards tried to perform CPR but could not revive him. An autopsy, scheduled for Thursday, should give insight as to his cause of death.
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Fujii’s relative Kevin Nakada told NBC 7 the Clairemont man was a true waterman, participating in everything from surfing to fishing.
A familiar sight at local beaches, he garnered the nickname “Seal Bite” because he was nipped by a seal a few years back.
“He was a great person, and he was much more than what an uncle or cousin would be,” Nakada said. “He taught me a lot of things. He was a great family man.”
Fujii leaves behind a wife, son and daughter.
Nakada decided to talk with NBC 7 because he and his family wanted to remember Fujii, a retired Navy employee, in the best way and to never forget the great person he was — the kind who leaves an impression on you very quickly.
Echoing that sentiment, young surfer Ethan Schauer said he has looked up to Fujii as a mentor for about four years now.
"He was very generous. He showed me how to be like, a good man. Never got super angry at anyone. He had good style,” said Schauer.
Friend Bruce Herridge told NBC 7 a Torrey Pine planted by Fujii 15 years ago stands as a living memorial to him in La Jolla. He hopes to install a plaque in front of it in his friend’s honor.
"He was a role model for many people,” said Herridge. “Just a really nice guy, always had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye, always positive. He was a good surfer, and he's going to be missed by all of us."
The family said they are planning a paddle-out to memorialize Fujii, but the date has not been determined.