Jamie Civil, 35, holding his daughter Lenni with partner Courtney. Civil died surfing a big wave in Aramoana on Saturday.
A man who died at an Otago beach on Saturday is being remembered as a talented surfer, a devoted partner, and a father who dearly loved his six-month-old daughter.
Jamie Civil, 35, died on Saturday afternoon while surfing at Aramoana, near Dunedin. Witnesses say he was pulled under the water by a massive wave. Several people helped to rescue him and tried to resuscitate him on the beach.
Civil was an incredibly talented and brave surfer, his brother-in-law Homa Mattingly said.
“He loved the big heavy barrelling waves, would often surf them on his own because no-one else was brave enough to enter the water,” he said.
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Civil grew up surfing in Kerikeri with his sister Tash. He moved to Dunedin to be near her and the two often surfed together, Mattingly said.
He said surfing was Civil’s obsession, until he met his partner Courtney and they had a daughter together – six-month-old Lenni.
“He just was so focused on his little girl, surfing was just pushed aside,” Mattingly said.
Civil’s partner, Courtney, was crushed, Mattingly said. She was at the beach with Lenni when the incident happened.
“Her whole world has come to an end pretty much and she’s gutted for little Lenni,” Mattingly said.
Civil was surfing in a local competition on Saturday. After finishing his heat, he decided to go out for a surf alongside the ongoing competition.
The waves were big and heavy, Mattingly said. Witnesses saw Civil surfing a big wave and getting to the end of it. He was then pulled under by either that wave or the next one.
People on the beach immediately rushed to rescue Civil. He was heavy when they reached him, Mattingly said.
Doctors and lifeguards on the beach were among those who began helping him and providing CPR.
Mattingly and his wife, Tash, who is Civil’s sister, were in a bay nearby and arrived at the scene on a jet-ski after receiving a call about what had happened.
One person grabbed a defibrillator from a nearby hall and got that to Civil within 10 minutes, Mattingly said.
Lyndon Fairbairn, a friend of Civil’s who was on the beach at the time, said Civil won numerous surfing titles and was renowned for his fearlessness.
Both Fairbairn and Civil were members of the South Coast Boardriders Association – which has now set up a GiveALittle page to help support Civil’s family.
Fairbairn said he saw Civil about 10 minutes before he died. “He had the biggest smile on his dial, he was happy as.”
When the incident happened, people tried to get to Civil as quickly as possible, Fairbairn said. “That’s how quickly the ocean can take you.”
“And when it’s someone like Jamie, who everyone respects as a big wave surfer, he’s in 30s, he’s fit, healthy and to be taken, it’s a big shock to everyone.
“Everyone’s just blown away.”
Additional reporting by Olivia Caldwell.