Josh "Tailsurfer" Bouma

Unfortunately, either age or the sea claims one of our own. This section is dedicated to honoring their memory.

Josh "Tailsurfer" Bouma

Postby chris oak » February 18th, 2021, 5:38 am

This is a repost from Josh's family, most of you in Southern California have heard about this terrible tragedy. Many thanks to Daniel for spreading the word, I am sure this helped get Josh back to his grieving family.

"Josh's father wanted to share this with with the community.

Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you may have heard by now, our 28 year old son, Joshua Michael Bouma, went missing freediving for lobster with his best bud Daniel Burke Saturday February 13th around 9:45 pm at El Morro State Park. Josh was a very experienced freediver, surfer, and waterman, and must have dove the same spot a hundred times before. In deteriorating conditions with increasing swell size and a strong south current, Josh was separated from his dive partner in heavy surf. Unable to find his partner, Daniel called me, then 911 immediately after Josh went missing. Although the conditions were difficult, we knew with Josh’s experience and equipment he had a great chance to make it through the night and were hopeful we’d find him with a bag of lobsters in one of the neighboring coves asking us what all the fuss was about. Chief John Rose from the US Coast Guard along with Ranger Paul Andrus from California State Park Service coordinated a heroic multi-agency search for Josh along with the Laguna Beach Lifeguards, Laguna Beach City Fire & Police Departments, OC Sheriff’s Department, and other agency lifeguards. People and resources were arriving on scene within the hour with a rescue helicopter, response boats, and multiple lifeguards in the water following soon thereafter hoping to find Josh safe. They searched well into the night and into the morning and until dusk the next day. They covered 138 square miles and 21 hours of continuous searching by sea, land, and air. I greatly appreciated Chief Rose taking the time to listen to my reasoning of why Josh had the experience, equipment, and knowledge to have a real chance to make it through this crisis and he told me this was in part the reason they extended the search until dusk the following day. The amount of time, personnel and resources everyone coordinated for our son, gave Josh a real chance. The willingness of every member of every team to put themselves in harm’s way in very rough conditions to save one soul truly makes them heroes.

Daniel Burke did a great job of reaching out to the OC Spearfishing community to ask them to watch out for any sign of Josh, but most importantly please be safe. From the time the Coast Guard and local authorities suspended their search for our son, our friends and family were not just there to offer their support but took immediate action to help in the search. Paul Caputo and Morgan Hill coordinated to take my son Evan and I out on Morgan’s boat first thing the following morning to search the coves. By the time I stepped off of Morgan’s boat, Hayden Socci and Ryan Miller were there to pick me up on Ryan’s boat and we were scanning the coast with high-powered binoculars. I visited with Perry Boyer from Beach Cities Scuba, Laguna Beach to ask if he could put the word out to the Scuba Dive community to please look out for any signs of equipment that may have washed up into the neighboring coves. I also asked if he had any master level recovery divers that could help, and he said I may be getting a call. Within an hour of leaving the shop I received a call from Chuck Hudson, a scuba instructor that runs privatized rescue company who offered to organize his 4 man team within hours. We picked up Chuck’s team from Ryan’s boat and had the first dive going that day. Chuck and his team were an amazing group and again we were blessed to have these guys sent to us. Chuck’s team dove again the next morning as well but did not find any signs of Josh. This was bitter-sweet as we were fearful of what we may find but we had to bring Josh home.

As I came in off the boat Tuesday, Jeff Mitchell reached out and helped me search around the point at E-bay. Mitch Zehner arrived as well and just as we were going to head to another cove, I received a couple calls – one from Hayden and the other from Daniel that said they heard through the community that a diver had been pulled out of the water at Church surf spot just below Trestles about 20 miles south. Although the authorities could not verify anything, we headed straight down, and many more family and friends followed as well. I had enough info from the community to know that we had found Josh before I even arrived. To the surfers that pulled Josh out of the water and the friends in the community that made the calls, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although we were absolutely heart-broken of finding our son lifeless, you helped give our family a tremendous amount of closure to see him as he lay. Josh looked truly peaceful, and from what we could surmise from his condition he was likely knocked unconscious in the heavy surf and did not suffer. Most importantly, our family believes he went in peace.

For those of you that have not seen Josh for some time, you may know in the past he was going through some personal struggles and mental health challenges. Josh overcame these tremendous struggles and these past several months have been a Godsend. He was happy, optimistic about the future, with a new job, new car, and back to the old Josh. Spearfishing, surfing, and fishing every spare moment he had and re-engaging with friends & family. I’m attaching a few recent photos of Josh from the past couple months including two from a last minute trip we took up to Rincon where scored epic surf and a wonderful spearfishing trip to Catalina. The last dive I had together with Josh was with him and Daniel just last week. Within 15 minutes Josh shot his halibut and he was so excited he speared a fish that he could take home and cook for his Grandma and Grandpa.

Josh passed diving and doing what he loved, and was found by his surfing brothers. Although this doesn’t make the loss of Josh any less tragic, what we take most comfort in is that these past several months we were all back together as a family and Josh was reconnected with old friends. He loved everyone and knew he was loved by all of his family and friends and for this we truly believe he is now at peace.
Thank you again for all your love and support and apologize if I haven’t been able to respond to many of you. We plan to have a celebration of life for Josh that we’ll announce at a later date, but the next day or so we just need to catch our breath, be with our closest family members, and grieve for the loss of our son.

I pray you all will be safe in what you do and when the opportunity to get together with a friend or family member comes up, you take it.

With Love,
Mike, Christine, Corrin, and Evan Bouma
Huntington Beach, CA"
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chris oak
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