A popular young man died Aug. 18 while surfing off Moonstone Beach in Cambria sending shock waves of grief across the North Coast and down to Venice Beach.
Liam Alexander Taylor, 19, also known as “Skinny” and “Red” died at Moonstone, which is notorious for large waves over shallow water. Though fellow surfers pulled him from the water, he died at the hospital from a devastating head wound.
He is survived in Cambria by his mother Shelley Triggs and little bother Koa, and in Venice Beach by his father Pat Taylor and stepmother Marjorie Weitzman Taylor.
Skinny was a popular lifeguard, skater and surfer both in SLO County and Southern California and also worked with the County’s Junior Lifeguard Program in Cayucos, where he was both a friend and mentor to many local youngsters.
One of those young people was Maverick Bright of Cayucos. Maverick’s dad, Ben Bright, said his son was devastated by Skinny’s death. “He was one of Maverick’s mentors,” said Ben Bright, who upon hearing of the young man’s death, went on an ocean paddle with his son in Skinny’s memory, the traditional way to say good-bye among surfers.
“It’s hard as a parent,” he said, “to see your son go through something he can’t understand.”
The loss of a hero often leads youngsters to do heroic things, and that was the case with 10-year old Maverick, who started a fund-raising drive (see: www.youcaring.com/skinnyliamalextaylor-909015) that set a goal of raising $1,000 in order to purchase a bronze memorial plaque to be installed on the Cayucos Pier. They want to put it near the platform where the junior guards jump off into the waves some 30 feet below, a highlight of the summer program’s activities.
Within just a few days, the website had surpassed its goal and Ben Bright said they planned to donate any extra money to the junior lifeguards program.
Skinny’s death hit the surfing and skating community hard both here and in Venice. Surfline Magazine had a big story about him and his accidental death:
“Taylor, a lanky, forever-smiling redhead with dual nicknames ‘Red’ and ‘Skinny in his two homes of Cambria and Venice Beach, was surfing one of his favorite spots, Moonstone Beach, when the accident occurred. Chase ‘Bubbles’ Tatham was there that day and he recounted to Surfline what happened:
“He went for a wave, went down, and came up face down…There were no lacerations to his head, but he went right into the sand. This time of year it’s so shallow. For 5-feet of wave, there’s only 1-foot of water.”
Surfline’s story continues, “After the wipeout, Johnny McElgunn and another friend, Mason Smith — both lifeguards along with Taylor — paddled over to their friend, who was unconscious. They immediately began CPR. And when emergency crews arrived, they were able to restore a pulse, although he remained unconscious. Later, at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Taylor was pronounced dead.”
“They gave him a shot of epinephrine and it did bring him back,” Tatham said. “They basically revived his body. But he died on that beach. The nurse told us later, upon impact, he severed the four major arteries to his brain. It cut off all the oxygen and blood flow. But luckily, he didn’t feel any pain, it was immediate.”
Maverick hopes that when they get the plaque for Skinny that everyone will come out for the memorial paddle and maybe any junior lifeguards that turn out would jump off the pier for their friend, calling it the First Annual “Skinny Dip.”
Another fund-raising account was also set up to help his family in Cambria, see: www.youcaring.com/shelleytriggs-908544 to donate.
A memorial paddle for Skinny was held Aug. 26 in Venice Beach. See: www.facebook.com/skinnydipmemorial for photos of that event and to look for announcements on when the memorial in Cayucos will be held.
Photos courtesy of Bright Family.
-By Neil Farrell