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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 10, 2005

Photographer dies at Pipeline

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

SUNSET BEACH — Well-known underwater photographer Jon Mozo died yesterday while working at Banzai Pipeline, and word of his death stunned the North Shore surfing community.

Mozo, 33, was swimming and taking photos of surfers yesterday. About 2 p.m. bodyboarders alerted lifeguards that a swimmer was in trouble, said Jim Howe, operations chief for the city Ocean Safety Division.

An off-duty lifeguard who was in the water dived and found Mozo. He and others brought Mozo to shore at Ehukai Beach Park and tried to revive him with a defibrillator, Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said. Mozo had head injuries and had no pulse, Tejada said. Mozo was pronounced dead at Kahuku Hospital.

"People are just speechless," said fellow surf photographer Bernie Baker, who was shooting pictures from the beach at Ehukai yesterday.

Baker said yesterday was one of those "pristine, perfect kind of photo and surfing days." The surf at Pipeline was not especially big, he said, but the swell was out of the west "and as any North Shore lifeguard can tell you, when you have an extreme west swell you have an extremely strong current and it's very easy to get dragged into a shallow area off the reef.

"He probably found himself caught in the face of a wave, and with the power of these west swells it may have dragged him up and over the face of the wave and flipped him into the shallow water. He would have hit the reef, which at best has 5 feet of water."

Surf contest promoter Randy Rarick said he was saddened by the news. "I was just talking to him about shooting a poster photo for the next Triple Crown," Rarick said. "Normally we use artwork on the posters, but Jon's stuff was a little bit different — it was a little more arty. I thought something by him might make a good poster. That was the last time I ever talked to him."

In January 1993, Mozo was surfing at a spot known as "Goats" off Goat Island in Malaekahana when he was attacked by a shark. Mozo was able to paddle to shore. He later received 30 stitches on each foot to close the gashes caused by the shark.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8038.