Beloved surfer and father dies days after surfing accident in California, family says

A beloved surfer and father died days after a surfing accident in California, the man’s family said in a statement.

Kirby Lee was found unconscious in the water off San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on Thursday, Nov. 2, the San Francisco Fire Department said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He died in the hospital four days later on Nov. 6, according to a statement his family posted to Caring Bridge, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing health stories.

“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Kirby, our friend, husband, father, brother, colleague, teacher,” the statement says. “Though heroic efforts were made to revive Kirby, he slipped from us on November 6.”

The family said they would take some comfort that their loss might “result in a better life for others” as Lee was an organ donor.

The family included a quote in the statement: “We cannot stop the waves of grief from coming, but we can learn to surf them.”

Lee, 54, was an experienced surfer and an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at UC San Francisco, SFGATE reported.

Lee’s sister Sabrina Umphress told the outlet doctors weren’t able to conclude what caused her brother’s death.

“They ruled out heart attack, they ruled out stroke, there were no injuries, nothing on the outside of (his) body that indicated he had been hit by his board and knocked unconscious,” she told the outlet. “We asked the doctors so many times. It sounded like they were very thorough. It’s a mystery.”

Lee’s family will hold a Celebration of Life ceremony in the future, the statement says.

“He was passionate about a lot of things but he was always so happy in the water,” Umphress told the outlet. “That’s what his friends said, ‘always so happy in the water.’”

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