Kevin Cody

Hermosa Beach Pier jumper ticketed after catching big wave [Updated]

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Andrew Ryan leaps from the Hermosa pier as a Lifeguard approaches.

Photos by Dean Lofgren

by Kevin Cody

Late Friday morning at the Hermosa Beach pier, Andrew Ryan, 30, was disappointed to see a big, highly anticipated north swell barreling in so consistently that it would be impossible to paddle out. He had arrived at the beach with the biggest board he has, a 7-0 shaped by his dad Pat Ryan, ET Surf’s long time shaper.

“It’s a magic board. I rode it a few days earlier at Silverstrand in 10-foot waves,” Ryan said.

Like every surfer raised in Hermosa Beach, Ryan knew there is an easy way out to the line-up on big days. Simply jump off the pier. He also knew it’s illegal and with the lifeguard tower on the pier, not easily done undetected.

“I put a button-up shirt over my wetsuit and walked out on the pier, like I was just checking the waves. But they saw my 7-0. A lifeguard truck with its siren on raced up the beach to the pier and over the bullhorn shouted, “Don’t do it,” Ryan said.

“Then I saw a guard walking out on the pier towards me. I was thinking, ‘It’s too late to back down now.’”

Ryan stripped off his shirt, stepped over the south side pier railing, flicked his board a safe distance away and jumped feet first.

He didn’t bother with a surfboard leash because he only planned to catch one wave.

Shortly after he jumped, the Baywatch lifeguard boat arrived and ordered Ryan to paddle ashore. So Ryan paddled under the pier to the north side. He was glad he did.

Ryan usually surfs the south side of the pier, where the waves have better shape.

But on this particular day, Ryan said, the waves on the north side were better.

While he waited for his wave, Baywatch reappeared. A photo taken from the beach by Dean Lofgren, shows Baywatch close enough to the beach to be rocked by the swells.

“We were both jockeying for position. They’re yelling at me to take the next wave in. I’m yelling back that I just want one wave,” Ryan recalled

Then he waited for nearly half an hour for a makeable wave. It was double overhead with a hint of a shoulder.

“It was steep. After I made the drop I just tried to stay in the pocket. When the wave began to close out, I thought about pulling in, but thought better of it,” Ryan said.

Lofgren’s photos show Ryan staying just ahead of the pitching lip and then making a hard turn toward shore as the wave explodes behind him.

Waiting lifeguards escorted him to a police squad car on The Strand.

“Mr. Ryan, I might have known it was you. You know I’m going to have to give you a ticket,” said the veteran Hermosa Beach Police Officer, who has watched Ryan grow up.

“The lifeguards on the beach and the police were cool. The cop told me to ‘have a nice day’ when he handed me the ticket,” Ryan said. Jumping from the pier is an infraction and carries a $100 fine for the first violation.

Jumping off the Hermosa pier has a history as old as the pier itself. The most legendary jump was during the 1982-83 El Nino winter.

As recalled by fellow Hermosa Beach surfer Chris Brown, “Scott Funk jumped off the end of the pier on a giant day to surf Cable Cars. (In the late 1960s the State Department of Fish and Game dumped Pacific Electric cable cars, 14 automobiles and 330 tons of quarry rock in 60 feet of water, about one-half mile off the north end of Hermosa to make a fishing reef. Because the reef is so deep, waves rarely break on it).

“Scott dodged bombs for about an hour before catching a huge set wave, which he rode all the way to the beach. Police took him to jail in his dripping wetsuit.

“To this day, 35 years later, Funk is still the only person to have ridden Cable Cars Reef,” Brown said.

Funk would take his big wave riding skills to Fiji, where he was one of the first surfers to ride Cloudbreak, a reef off Tavarua Island. In 1984, Funk and partner Dave Clark established the now famous Tavarua Surf Camp.

Aside from surfers, the most common Hermosa pier jumpers are drunks.Every summer, as part of their training, lifeguard rookies jump from the pier and then practice pulling veteran lifeguards, posing as victims, off the pilings. Drunks and other inexperienced pier jumpers often cling to the barnacle encrusted pilings waiting to be rescued. ER

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