By Steven Baxter, Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ >> Shawn “Barney” Barron, a colorful and widely known surfer from Santa Cruz, collapsed and died Tuesday afternoon at his home on the Westside.
He was 44.
About 4:30 p.m., a 23-year-old woman who lives at Barron’s home on the 100 block of Dufour Street heard a crash, said Santa Cruz police Lt. Bernie Escalante. She went outside to an area between the home and an in-law unit and saw Barron on the ground, Escalante said.
She called 911. Paramedics and police tried to resuscitate Barron, but he was pronounced dead at 5:05 p.m.
The cause of his death remains unclear because an autopsy is not complete, Escalante said Wednesday. Some of Barron’s friends said he might have died from a heart attack or a stroke.
“It’s really surprising,” said Escalante, who attended Santa Cruz’s Mission Hill Middle School with Barron.
Escalante said the death does not appear suspicious.
News of Barron’s death rippled through the surfing world Wednesday, with “#RIPBarney” hashtags on social media and posts with photos and videos from decades of ocean-related antics.
Barron, a Santa Cruz High School graduate, competed in the Maverick’s surf contest several times and was a tow-in surfing partner with another daring Santa Cruz surfer, Darryl “Flea” Virostko. The pair grew up together on the Westside and excelled in giant and small waves, earning surfing fame in the 1990s. Barron completed a “barrel roll” and innovated futuristic maneuvers when he wasn’t surfing big waves.
“There’s only a handful of guys who can do both disciplines,” said Brenda Scott Rogers, founder and owner of Santa Cruz-based Hotline Wetsuits.
Rogers, who watched Barron grow up skateboarding and surfing, sponsored Barron for more than 12 years. To match his spunky personality, Barron wore wetsuits fashioned as superhero costumes such as Spiderman and Batman.
He wasn’t afraid to have fun, and his zest for life was infectious, friends said.
“Shawn just took it to a whole other level, just pushing limits,” said Rogers.
When his pro surfing career faded, Barron worked for another sponsor, Volcom, as a Northern California sales representative for a short time.
He was not married and had no children. He is survived by his sisters, Megan and Amelia, of Santa Cruz; his stepfather of Arizona; and his father, Mike Barron of Chino Hills.
Barron was also an artist and volunteered much of his time in recent years with the Mauli Ola Foundation and Operation Surf.
Mauli Ola works with children who suffer from cystic fibrosis and cancer and takes them surfing. Operation Surf teaches wounded military veterans to surf and helps them recover mentally and physically.
The week of April 21, Barron was among the volunteers at Operation Surf at Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz and Capitola Main Beach. At the wrap-up party, Barron showed off his break-dancing skills and also made a heartfelt speech about the participants.
“It’s really rewarding,” Barron said of the experience.
Barron sometimes suffered from mental health problems and was a mentor to others who struggled.
Monday, Barron surfed twice during a large south swell, photographer John Thomas wrote on Facebook.
“I’ve never met anyone who was more generous or compassionate to people who are different,” Thomas wrote.
Peter Mel, one of Barron’s surfing peers, also wrote Tuesday on Facebook that he had been “reminiscing of trips, parties and surfs” that they shared.
“He was an innovator. In his surfing, his art and his personality,” Mel wrote.
“There’s nobody I could compare him to. I will never forget you Shawn.”
Shawn “Barney” Barron
Born: Nov. 11, 1970
Died: May 5, 2015
Home: Santa Cruz
Occupation: Former professional surfer and artist known for innovative aerial surfing and big-wave riding
Education: Santa Cruz High School
Community Involvement: Volunteered with Mauli Ola Foundation, a group that surfs with children who suffer from cystic fibrosis and cancer. Also volunteered with Operation Surf, which helps wounded military veterans surf and recover.
Survivors: Sisters, Megan and Amelia of Santa Cruz; father, Mike Barron of Chino Hills; stepfather of Arizona.
Original Article: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/obituaries/20150506/quirky-popular-santa-cruz-surfer-shawn-barney-barron-dies