SANTA CRUZ -- County coroner's officials identified a 47-year-old Mountain View man as the boogie boarder who died late Friday from injuries suffered after rough surf sent him crashing into the rocks near the Santa Cruz Lighthouse.
An autopsy is scheduled for this week on James Zenk to determine the cause of death, said Santa Cruz County sheriff Sgt. Chris Clark, who heads the coroner's unit.
"In regard to did he hit something, did he drown, we're not 100 percent certain yet," Clark said.
Zenk's family was notified of his death, Clark said. Authorities haven't yet found anyone who came to Santa Cruz with Zenk, Clark said.
About 4:30 p.m. Friday, lifeguards on personal water craft contacted Zenk, who was astride a boogie board in the water with fins, witnesses said. Zenk was also wearing a wetsuit, Clark said.
He appeared to be kicking and paddling calmly when rescuers made contact, according to Kate Falconer, a witness and former Santa Cruz Sentinel photographer. Falconer, who called 911 to alert rescuers that the man might need help, said something didn't seem right because the man was in an area where people don't normally swim.
A high surf advisory was posted Friday for swells up to 13 feet according to the National Weather Service. The rough surf prompted Santa Cruz Fire to position rescuers in the ocean to warn people and regularly check on them, fire officials said.
While rescuers warned Zenk about the dangerous surf and suggested he move, Zenk told rescuers he was fine, Santa Cruz Fire battalion chief Rob Young said.
Rescuers watched him and left him alone but shortly after, witnesses said a set of waves came in and slammed him into the rocks. Witnesses alerted authorities that the man was in distress and rescue swimmers were sent in to save him, Young said.
Three rescue swimmers were dispatched, with one rescuer jumping jumped from the cliff above, but couldn't get to Zenk because of the rough surf, Young said.
The swimmers were overwhelmed by the waves, said John F. Hunter, a professional photographer from Capitola who watched events unfold from the cliff.
The swimmers, after suffering injuries themselves after swallowing water and crashing against the rocks, were forced to leave the water without rescuing Zenk, Young said. They boarded a Santa Cruz Harbor Patrol boat and were taken to Dominican Hospital for treatment.
A second set of rescue swimmers eventually pulled Zenk from the ocean, Young said. Rescuers brought the unconscious Zenk to Cowell Beach where he was taken by ambulance to Dominican Hospital, Young said.
Zenk was pronounced dead at the hospital, Clark said.
Follow Sentinel reporter Calvin Men at Twitter.com/calvinmenatwork