Paddle Out to Honor a Local Teen


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.

An informal shrine this week outside the apartment where Hunter Schwirtz lived. Photo by Jody Tiongco.
An informal shrine this week outside the apartment where Hunter Schwirtz lived.
Photo by Jody Tiongco.

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.

Hunter Schwirtz wins a downhill skateboarding contest in 2011
Hunter Schwirtz wins a downhill skateboarding contest in 2011

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.


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  1. I respectfully disagree with the “Editor’s Note” of choosing not to report suicides. Back in the 30’s it was shown that reporting on suicides actually increased it, but this is a different demographic and geographic area. This is not New York where millions of people live as strangers to one another, but indeed a special community that does it’s best to stay small and close knit despite external influences. That said, not a big fan of the Indy or it’s writers — more of a business with an agenda than a firm that actually cares for the community.

  2. I also disagree with the “Editor’s Note.” We need to be cognizant of the fact that young people are choosing to end their lives and not sweeping it under the carpet. So if the child was not as popular as Hunter, you’d ignore it!? Shameful! We need to acknowledge this problem and deal with it. I think youth pastor Sam Ellis did a WONDERFUL job in his blog about suicide in Laguna. Read it.

  3. Ive known Hunter forever, and this article is so unfair to him. He taught me how to skate and surf, he was loved by everyone. You wouldn’t be able to find a single person to say anything bad about him. And my dad lead his service, get your facts right!

  4. It’s been a year since we lost hunter I love him so much and miss him he was the older brother I never had me and hunter had so many memories together ?

  5. Hunter is my grandson, and I thank everyone for the good words concerning him. He was a joy and a bit of devilment. We loved him very much and wish he could have gotten through the tough growing years to gain for himself and others the gifts he had been given at birth. He was so talented in so many areas and a very nice kind young man who could at times reminded me so much of my younger brother…who irritated the life out of me when we were growing up. Love both of them.. Thank you all, LaGuna Beach friends for being there for my family.


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