Friends and family plan a paddle out honoring Hunter Schwirtz at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Oak Street Beach lookout and a remembrance celebration throughout the afternoon.
Pastor Sumo Sato of H20 Community Church of Huntington Beach said he will lead the service.
Schwirtz took his own life Saturday, Sept. 26, days short of his 20th birthday, Oct. 5.
“He was loved by everybody,” said Danielle Purcell, a realtor who said she hired Santo to conduct the service. The week before, Schwirtz described “head spinning” to his parents, who spent time with him and consoled him, according to Purcell, but last Saturday the youth sent a good-bye text to his friends. “His dad rushed over, but he was gone,” Purcell said. Schwirtz’s father did not respond to requests for comment.
Police found a 19-year-old dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in the 100 block of Brooks Street, Sgt. Tim Kleiser said.
Friend Chance Gaul, 18, this week focused on recalling a decade of youthful hijinks alongside Schwirtz, such as tossing water balloons at lifeguards and making a nuisance of themselves at Laguna Surf & Sport. “He was for sure like my big brother,” said Gaul, adding that Schwirtz experienced loss at 9 when his mother died. “We’ve been through so much,” he said.
Gaul said Schwirtz had started his own business teaching surfing and paddle boarding this summer and was “stoked for the future.” “This definitely caught us off guard,” he said.
Suicide was the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds in the Orange County between 2009 and 2013, accounting for one in five deaths, according to the county Health Care Agency report issued in May on teen self-harm and suicide. Laguna ranked third among cities for teen self-harm, with 33 teens injuring themselves over the four years, but like 11 other towns countywide Laguna experienced a single teen suicide in that period, the report says. “The age of adolescence, is a critical time period in life as it is characterized by mental, physical, and emotional developmental changes,” the report says.
Schwirtz was well known for helping beginners learn to surf at his favorite break at Brooks Street, said girlfriend Nicole Pizzimenti.
Schwirtz also was among the local youth who spoke up in defense of skateboarding when Laguna Beach debated banning certain streets to downhill riders several years ago. He took first place in the pro-division of the Talega Slide Jam, an unsanctioned race in San Clemente in 2011.
Schwirtz is survived by his father Matt Schwirtz, also of Laguna Beach. The identity of other survivors was not immediately available.
Editor’s Note: The Indy generally does not report on suicide, but made an exception due to extraordinary interest in the young victim.