The victim, an unidentified man in his 20s or 30s, was boarding in water off Santa Cruz, Calif., when a rescue team used a jet ski to reach him and warn him about a high surf advisory Friday.
Despite the warning the man stayed in the area. Onlookers standing on a cliff overlooking the spot tried shouting at him but the man waved them off, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
"You take one look at him and he just didn't look like he had experience in heavy surf like that," said witness John Hunter, a photographer who saw the incident. "Everybody was screaming, 'Just get out.' It was intense."
The man ignored the advice and a short time later a series of large waves came ashore, pushing him into a rock and into foamy water where the current is particularly strong. Two rescue swimmers attempted to reach the man but had to turn back after they were unable to negotiate the treacherous current. The swimmers also suffered injuries though none were believed to be life-threatening, police said.
A second team finally reached the man, who had suffered critical injuries. Paramedics rushed him to nearby Dominion Hospital where he was pronounced dead.