A big wave rider died Tuesday at the unforgiving surf break known as Ghost Trees, a Monterey County spot known for its fast-moving 20-foot and better waves. Peter Davi of Monterey lost his board and was attempting to swim to shore, but never made it, witnesses told authorities. Friends of the 45-year-old Davi lost sight of him and later found him floating in the water unconscious.

Monterey County Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis English said a department search and rescue team responded to a report of a surfer in distress, but Davi was dead by the time the team got to Pebble Beach. "It's just extremely high surf. Waves are crashing against the rocks, kind of dangerous," he said. "It's primo conditions for surfers."

According to the Mavericks big wave surfing contest Web site, Davi was one of the early pack of brave surfers to test themselves at Mavericks after word got around about its massive waves. Jeff Clark, the founder of the Mavericks surf contest, surfed Mavericks alone for 15 years before sharing his secret with close friends — including Davi. Clark described Davi as a "rambunctious big wave rider" and the two took a few surf trips together.

"He was one of the early guys that I was able to convince to come up and surf Mavericks with me. He was like blown away at how big a wave it was," Clark said. Davi's death came just days before the waiting period was set to open for the big wave surf contest at Mavericks off the shore of Half Moon Bay, where equally large swells rolled in Tuesday.