A San Francisco native who loved surfing the coast up and down the Peninsula has died following what's being described as a freak accident beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on a day of extreme waves last week.
Haruwn Wesley, 64, died Sunday, one week after a tragic accident that occurred while he was bodyboarding near Fort Point in San Francisco. Wesley, an experienced surfer who was well aware of the dangers of the rocky areas around the Golden Gate Bridge, reportedly struck his head on a large rock and was then submerged underwater, unconscious. Surfers in the vicinity rushed to his rescue, much as he had helped rescue others in the past, as SFGate reported,
SFist first reported on a surfer requiring rescue near Fort Point on December 14, and the accident happened the day earlier, on December 13. Waves along the coast that day were forecast to reach up to 20 feet.
Wesley had reportedly lost count of how many surfers for whom he had come to the rescue.
"Haruwn has rescued many people over the years who were either swept out by the surf in a riptide or became unable to help themselves out in the San Francisco Bay and Ocean Beach," writes his wife, Margaret Coles Wesley, on a GoFundMe campaign for his medical expenses. "One time at Ocean Beach, he was on the shore when he saw people screaming and pointing at the water. He simply dove in, swam 50 yards in heavy surf and rescued the man before the Surf Patrol arrived. Another time, he saved the life of a man whose life vest malfunctioned the sailboat he was in capsized under the Golden Gate Bridge."
Wesley grew up in the Upper Haight, and identified as Black and Asian, according to his wife, saying he was a "Nubian-Asian brother." From his Chinese-American grandfather he learned Tai Chi, and he was fond of celebrating his mix of backgrounds.
"Haruwn felt a spiritual connection to the ocean and would frequently confer with a curious seal, dolphin, otter or other sea creature who greeted him in the water," his wife says. "Often he would claim that they approached him because they could sense he was a fellow 'brother.'"
Wesley reportedly preferred bodyboarding to surfing because it brought him closer to the water.
In addition to his love of surfing, Wesley was an avid baker and in the last decade opened Shampa's Pies in Pacifica — named for his mother-in-law who told him to "get out of the water and start baking." He gained a cult following from his appearances at farmers' markets and write-ups in local media.
As his daughter, Lunda Wesley, tells KPIX, "He would say to me, be careful what you ask for because there was a write-up in the paper about his pies and then he was busy working all the time."
Wesley insisted on using fresh, organic ingredients in his pies, and he specialized in chocolate, sweet potato, and lemon chess pies.
"I decided to specialize in pies because it’s a beautiful thing,” he told Punch Magazine. "A lot of people think the deep-fried bar at McDonald’s is a pie. Or pies from the frozen section at your local grocery store. Those aren’t fresh pies. Fresh is better."
"Haruwn was probably one of the most positive guys we had surfing at Fort Point or around the city,” said fellow surfer Jeff Sklover, one of many in the community who knew Wesley well being out on the water. Sklover tells KPIX, "I’d show up and see Haruwn wherever I surfed. The first thing was — ‘Hi Haruwn, how are you? He’d answer, 'Blessed, I’m so Blessed!'"
Photo: Joe McNally via GoFundMe