California

‘Surf etiquette’ clash leaves surfer with brain damage and paddleboarder prison-bound

A surfer exits a wave while surfing at Black’s Beach Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in San Diego. Large surf continued to pound the California coast Tuesday, as officials warned of dangerous currents along the beaches and hazardous conditions at sea. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A surfer exits a wave while surfing at Black’s Beach Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in San Diego. Large surf continued to pound the California coast Tuesday, as officials warned of dangerous currents along the beaches and hazardous conditions at sea. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) The Associated Press file

Surfer Kevin Eslinger says he confronted paddleboarder Paul Taylor Konen over a question of “surf etiquette” on the ocean off Sunset Cliffs near San Diego, California, KNSD reports.

Eslinger, 56, said Konen, 35, had nearly run into him as they both caught a wave last June, the Times of San Diego reported.

But when Eslinger paddled over to chide Konen, the younger man struck him in the head with his paddle, causing permanent brain damage, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

A San Diego judge on Thursday sentenced Konen to five years in prison for the assault, KNSD reported.

“Today is a good day for the surf community,” said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco, according to the station. “When people are out in the water, they are safe. The rules on land apply to the ocean.”

Eslinger, a surfing and swim coach, told the judge he still has trouble speaking as a result of his injuries, leading people to believe he’s drunk or “damaged,” the Union-Tribune reported.

“Two lives are irrevocably changed,” Eslinger said, KNSD reported. “But I feel justice was done.”

Konen’s attorney, Brian McCarthy, had earlier argued in court that his client was only trying to get away from Eslinger, who pursued him on his surfboard, the Times of San Diego reported.

“The question is did my client intentionally assault Mr. Eslinger or was there a situation where Mr. Eslinger got in front of my client’s path and got hurt?” McCarthy said, according to the publication.

But Judge Robert Trentacosta said Thursday he did not find Konen’s testimony that he feared for his life credible, the Union-Tribune reported. He also rejected a plea by McCarthy to sentence Konen to probation.

Lifeguards from the Australian Lifeguard Service were preparing for a training session when someone noticed two swimmers having trouble. A lifeguard used a drone to drop rescue pods to save the swimmers.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.


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