Andrew Ryan jumped off the Hermosa Beach pier into local surfing folklore

by Kevin Cody
Photos by Dean Lofgren

[Editor’s note: The following story originally appeared in the Jan. 20, 2018 Easy Reader. Andrew Ryan died Thursday morning after jumping from a floodlight tower at Clark Field in Hermosa Beach.]

Late morning on Friday 20th January 2018, Andrew Ryan, 30, was disappointed to see a much anticipated large northern swell rolling in so steadily that it would be impossible to paddle out. He had arrived at the Hermosa Beach dock with the biggest board he had, a 7-0 shaped by his father Pat Ryan, the longtime ET Surf shaper.

“It’s a magical painting. I rode it a few days earlier at Silverstrand in 10ft waves,” Ryan said.

Like all surfers raised at Hermosa Beach, Ryan knew there was an easy way to line up on the big days. Just jump off the pier. He also knew it was illegal and with the lifeguard tower on the pier, not easy to do without being detected.

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

Andrew Ryan jumps off the pier before a lifeguard can stop him. Photo by Dean Lofgren

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

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

He didn’t bother to use a surfboard leash because he knew after a wave he wouldn’t be able to paddle back.

Shortly after jumping, Baywatch Redondo arrived and, over a bull’s horn, ordered Ryan to paddle ashore. Ryan paddled under the pier on the north side. He was glad he did.

Ryan generally surfs on the south side of the pier where the waves have better shape.

But that day, Ryan says, the waves on the north side were better.

Andrew Ryan waited half an hour for a doable wave.

As 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 swell.

“We were both playing for position. They’re yelling at me to catch the next wave. I yell back that I need a good wave,” Ryan recalled.

He waited almost half an hour for the wave he wanted. It was an air double with a hint of shoulder.

Andrew Ryan wasn’t on a leash because he knew he couldn’t paddle again.

“It was stiff. After making the drop, I just tried to stay in the pocket. When the wave started to close in, I thought about going back, but changed my mind,” Ryan said.

Lofgren’s photos show Ryan running just ahead of the pitch lip, then making a sharp turn towards the shore as the wave explodes behind him.

Rescuers escorted him to a police cruiser on The Strand.

“Mr. Ryan, I could 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 watched Ryan grow up.

“The lifeguards on the beach and the police were cool. The cop told me to ‘have a good day’ when he handed me the ticket,” Ryan said. Jumping off the pier is an offense and results in a $100 fine for the first offense. Emergency room

“We were both playing for position,” Andrew Ryan said of himself and Baywatch Redondo.

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