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Mountain View man dies surfing in Santa Cruz

Original post made on Jan 27, 2014

A boogie boarder who died after being pulled from the ocean in Santa Cruz on Friday has been identified as James Zenk, 47, of Mountain View,
according to the county coroner's office.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 27, 2014, 9:06 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Anon, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:48 am

How sad and tragic. I wonder if he left behind wife and children? The article didn't say. In any event, I'm sure he left behind many loved ones. Rest in Peace.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:02 am

I took my children and their friends to a beach during an unusually hot week in a city where weather is usually cold. I wondered why there weren't many people around. I looked for posted signs of danger but there were none. About half an hour later, while the children were in the water, some good soul told me that he surfs at this beach and there were bad undercurrents that day and my 4th grade son was too far out (chest level). He said, "See how the current is curving?" and described the undercurrent. I thanked him and ran out to retrieve my son. I think back to what could have happened if I hadn't been warned and thank God for this angel. How are we to know when the beach waters are dangerous? How is it that far more people die in the ocean now than in the 60s and 70s? Or is it just more publicized now? Has global warming affected the oceans? Maybe beaches are never safe past knee level? Thank you to any advice.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:15 am

@Palo Verde Mom - The ocean is dangerous and always has been. You can't expect signs everywhere in the world there is danger, you need to own the responsibility. You should never take kids to a beach without a lifeguard unless you are a skilled enough swimmer, and know the water well to understand and manage the situation. You were really lucky, but need to evaluate your risk assessment, not blame global warming.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

You can check the national weather service for beach safety warnings. I heard the most recent alerts via NPR.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

The ocean is always dangerous. From the CDC, "Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years, and the fifth leading cause for people of all ages". 43% of drownings are in the ocean, lakes or rivers. You can't rely on danger signs or weather alerts. Unless you are an experienced swimmer, you should stick to beaches with lifeguards, especially when you are with children.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

Ha, Mr. Recycle, I'm not blaming anyone but myself. And I never watched Baywatch. Obviously, there are rip current deaths still occurring so it's not common knowledge. As for no lifeguards, I figured it was due to budget cuts. Most beaches do not have lifeguards and I grew up going to beaches, not all the time, but ignorant, I suppose. Truly, they do not teach beach safety in high school or college. Some helpful info online states that the way to get out of rip currents is to swim parallel to the beach, rather than perpendicular (into the current leaving the beach, which is impossible). To spot rip currents, see where there are no waves (that's where the water is leaving the beach and going back out to sea).

According to this YouTube video, on average, someone drowns in a rip current every two or three days in Australia. Of the 11,000 beaches in Australia, only 3% have lifeguards. Here's the link: Web Link

Here's an image of how to swim out of a rip current: Web Link

Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:49 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Curious Observer, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

The SJMN had a story about this on Saturday. Looks like the boogie boarder ignored the warnings about the rough surf: Web Link.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

High surf conditions were prevalent for all of California for most of last week.

In fact, since late December there have been many days where the wave heights were well above average. Just last weekend Ocean Beach (SF) had faces at 10-12'.

The "toilet bowl", which is over by the lighthouse on Steamer Lane, is always a dangerous spot - high surf or not. The potential to get roughed-up or worse is there every day. And as indicated in many of the news reports - once you're in there, it is very difficult to get out; even if you're the most skilled lifeguard out there.

Mr. Edwards - beyond your snark...everyone knows that lifeguard operations are scaled way back out of season. In Santa Cruz (the city lifeguard service covers Cowell/Steamer Lane - not county or state), the full-time guards are staffed at the main HQ on the wharf. They also run water patrols as needed. The winter staffing in SC has been the same for decades.

On the east coast, most counties or municipalities hire private lifeguard services. Those services disappear altogether after Labor Day. And you'll find that most lifeguard services on the East Coast will not allow ocean bathers to go past their chest or swim out beyond the break.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Wasn't that the same day as Mavericks?

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Mavericks was Thursday. However the swell was just as big (and nasty) on Friday.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Mom - no, really, it is common knowledge. Are you from California? We have undertows in Nor Cal all of the time. I've never frequented beaches w/lifeguards, as beaches rarely have them.

How sad for this man and his loved ones. So many deaths are easily avoidable, like this one.

Posted by Jim's friend, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:41 am

I am a dear friend of Jim Zenk & he will be missed very much by many. Jim did not have a wife or children but did leave behind a loving mother & step dad he lived with & many friends who loved him very much. To know Jim is to know integrity, honesty & friendship. I am sure that everyone that knows him will have great memories of him. Rest in peace in the heavens my friend !!!

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:53 am

Hmmm, sadly, you are wrong. Just because it's something you learned along the way, does not justify it as common knowledge. And the word "undertows" is and incorrect word. I've spoken to plenty of moms who don't know of rip currents - start asking around for people to define and you'll see.

Posted by Friend of a friend, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:02 am

People, I am also a friend of many people who knew James. Jim accomplished much in his life, overcoming odds things that most people fail at. For Jim to die this way is a true tragedy.

But what gets me the most this morning is all the bickering and incivility towards one another on this post.

Mr. Recycle, Mom, ect.. you should be ashamed of yourself for taking a sad story, a time for mourning, and turning it into your own Soap box for political comments and general discontent about one another. Go find another site to prove your points! That's a sad take away for me and many who read this thread. Think about that for a while.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Correction? , a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2014 at 4:44 pm

One article gave the victim' sage as 27, another as 42, and this one as 47! Which article gave the correct age of the surfer.

Posted by Thanks!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Thank you for the warnings about rip currents. I grew up in Los Angeles but had no idea what to look for. No one I have ever known has perished from one. We'd all pile in the car and hit the beach on a whim! When waves were bad, it was obvious and we stayed out.

Posted by nick, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:21 pm

he was at steamer lane

Posted by nick, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:22 pm

steamer lane

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Here is a good site for rip education:

Web Link

Posted by Robert Downey, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:38 pm

My dear freind Jimmy Zenk:
So sorry to hear of this trajedy. My thoughts are with your family. I have such vivid and fond memories of you and my brother. I'd often try to tag along with you guys as it was always exciting. I wish I could tell you what our friendship and especially your friendship with my brother meant.

It was such a good time growing up. I can remember you sleeping over and in the morning telling me to "clean my plate" at breakfast. I remember when my foot got caught in the spokes of your bike while riding on the laughing at the fact that my toes should have been severed. I remember when we borrowed a case of Lowenbrau from the delivery truck, drank most of it under the San Thomas/Hamilton over-crossing and Chris fell with a bottle in his hand and cut his arm from the glass. We had to carry him back to our house and explain his injury. I can remember your perfectly feathered hair. I remember how we went to get some more beer at the celebration of my brothers life and how devastated you were.... not just about him so concerned for me. This is how I feel now about you! I'm not sure if you know this but I think that your dad's t-top trans am was the inspiration by which my brother ended up with the same car. I wish I could thank you for all that.

Rest in peace Jimmy. I hope that you and Chris are rolling a fat one and enjoying a ride in a black t-top trans-am.

Posted by Robert Downey, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:47 pm

One more quick note.....sorry I mispelled "friend". Also, wanted to say the point about rip currents or whatever they are called is valid but probably better suited for a different post.

Posted by Fellow Boogier, a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2014 at 10:35 am

Dear friends and family of Jimmy, I am truly sorry for your loss. Even the most skilled and cautious people can end up in bad situations. Not everyone gets to pass on doing something they enjoy. I hope he got barreled on his way out.
Much respect and condolences.

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