Friends recall Brazilian surfer
A 33-year-old Brazilian surfer who died Wednesday after being pulled from waters off a Mokuleia beach had a history of epileptic seizures, his friends said.
Rodrigo Salva was an experienced surfer who came to Hawaii from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil four months ago to surf Oahu's North Shore, said his roommate Beto Maiar.
"He was pretty good," Maiar said. "He had a sponsor for surfing before."
Salva worked two days a week at the swap meet and surfed the remainder of the week, sharing a Waialua house with fellow Brazilian surfers.
The Medical Examiner's Office found the immediate cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning, and epilepsy was a significant condition.
Roommate Richard Carvalho said Salva was "a nice guy, quiet, super-cool" and "really healthy," but disclosed that he had had epileptic seizures after being involved in a car accident years ago. Salva had said he had controlled the seizures with medication.
"Maybe that was what happened in the water," Carvalho said.
Surfers who pulled Salva out of the water and others also suspected a seizure or some other medical condition.
"He wasn't really in the wave impact zone," said Ian Wasnich, 40, who was out surfing at the time. "From where he was in the water, he wasn't near the reef. I can't imagine he would have hit the reef."
The surf was at most 8 feet at face height at Silva's Channel, a surf spot off Crozier Drive, on Wednesday afternoon.
Wasnich and Jason Lee, 39, said Salva had been surfing earlier, and noticed him paddling in the channel (the calmer area between the areas where the surf breaks) and noticed his board floating stationary -- not being pulled by the current.
"It was funny to see the board not moving," Lee said. "That was the tip-off."
When Salva did not surface after a minute, they headed over.
When they got to the board, they found Salva still leashed to his board.
"He was just hanging upside down underwater," Wasnich said. "We were waiting for his head to pop up. He was just hanging there."
Marcelo Pacote, 36, a Brazilian surfer who has been living in Hawaii for 16 years and lives in the area, helped get Salva onto his longboard, then rode Salva's board to shore to call for help and to get a bigger board on which to retrieve him.
Meanwhile, Wasnich did chest compressions and Lee did cardiopulmonary resuscitation while trying to keep Salva on the board and fighting the strong current back to shore.
Wasnich said it took 10 to 15 minutes to bring him back to shore.
There are few beachgoers and no lifeguards in the area.
Calls to 911 came in between 3:10 and 3:15 p.m. Salva was taken in critical condition to Wahiawa General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Jane Musselman, 50, who lives at a house on the beach and witnessed the men's valiant efforts to try to save him, said, "They're heroes."
Pascote said Salva was "definitely a surfer just trying to live his dream in Hawaii."