Friends fear the worst after a college wrestler jumped into the Pacific Ocean last week and never returned to the surface.
At around 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, three members of the San Francisco State University wrestling team decided to take what they called a “polar plunge,” a daring activity whereby people jump into a body of water during the winter months. The three went to Esplanade Beach in Pacifica, California, for their event.
Though all three took the plunge that morning, only two returned. The third participant, Hamzah Alsaudi, 22, had been “struck by a large wave” and disappeared immediately, a report from the Pacifica Police Department stated. His two friends then frantically scoured the area, looking for him. When their search proved unsuccessful, they contacted police.
According to Pacifica police, several investigative bodies joined the search for Alsaudi. “Assistance was requested from the U.S. Coast Guard, California State Parks Ocean Life Guards, the California Highway Patrol air unit, and the San Bruno Police Department for use of their drone to aid in the search,” they said. “The U.S. Coast Guard responded with aircraft and a surface vessel to assist in the search.”
Unfortunately, those efforts were similarly unsuccessful. Police suspended the search for Alsaudi sometime on Friday and have stated they have no plans to resume it.
Friends have expressed feelings of helplessness and uncertainty. One man reportedly told a neighbor, “I have to call his parents, but I don’t want to tell him that he’s dead because I don’t know if he is.” Alsaudi is currently considered missing.
“Sad, obviously,” said teammate Callum Bisping. “It hasn’t fully set in yet. He was an amazing guy, one of my best friends on the team. Very giving.”
Bisping added that several friends had gathered in solemn remembrance at the spot on the beach where Alsaudi had jumped to “[g]ive him a send-off, celebrate him.” He added that they “kind of got connection” with Alsaudi “by touching the water.”
Whether Bisping was one of the wrestlers who partook in the polar plunge is unclear, as the names of Alsaudi’s companions that morning have not been reported.
Alsaudi was a senior at SFSU majoring in political science with a minor in Arab and Muslim ethnicities and diasporas studies. Despite his wrestling skills, friends claimed that Alsaudi is not a strong swimmer. Signs posted at Esplanade Beach also warn that dangerous rip tides are common.
Jamillah Moore, the SFSU vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, released a statement about Alsaudi’s disappearance. “I write to you with a heavy heart. Many of you may have already heard that SF State student Hamzah Alsaudi has been missing since a swimming accident in Pacifica on Thursday, January 19. At this time, we have been told that authorities are no longer actively searching for Hamzah, and he is considered missing,” she wrote.
“As always, at a difficult time like this, you are not alone. Please reach out to our SF State resources if you need help or if you want to process with someone,” she added, listing on-campus resources that are available to students and staff.
“We remain deeply grateful to the Coast Guard, Police Department, and others for all they have done to help with the search,” the statement concluded.
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