Jake says Pete looked out for everyone, no matter how big or small the waves. " 'Two feet to 20,' he always said," Jake says, recalling a day in 2002 when his dad pulled four tourists from the freezing waters off Carmel Beach. The fifth, a kid, died in Davi's arms. Davi did time in 1998 on drug and firearms charges, but Ruffo says jail was a wake-up call. "We all do crazy shit," says Ruffo, who was busted in 2005 for selling meth. "But Pete paid his debt. He worked hard to put a roof over Jake's head, fishing every day." He may have turned his life around, but there was another factor in Davi's death. The toxicology report, issued on January 10, revealed that at the time of his death Davi had methamphetamines in his system at a level of 0.75 milligrams per liter – more than enough to make him intoxicated and potentially impair his ability to survive an accident in dangerous surf.
The evening of December 3, as Peter Davi prepared to head out to Ghost Tree, Jake and some friends were sitting on Oahu's North Shore, watching waves crash in the twilight, when a pair of surfers were sucked out by a rip current. Commandeering a jet ski, they charged out and saved the kids from being lost at sea. The next morning Jake was trying to sleep, but his phone kept ringing. "Around 20 people called me," he says. "They told me something bad had happened; my dad was lost at sea. I'm thinking, Lost at sea? No fucking way. Not my dad."
Jake assumed his dad's fishing boat had simply failed to report. " 'Think positive,' I said. 'He'll make it in.' But then I found out he was surfing. He died doing something he loved."
Jake stood in Saint Angela Merici Catholic Church in Pacific Grove two days later, listening to friends eulogize his father. Hundreds turned out at Lovers Point in Monterey that afternoon for a paddle-out memorial. Jake watched from the rocks until his friend Darryl "Flea" Virostko paddled by on an 11-foot-7 Dick Brewer board Peter had given Jake. Jumping into the frigid water in his full Versace suit, Jake rode the board as the crowd cheered.
Drained but unable to sleep, the next morning Jake drove to the mortuary to say a few final words to his father. There was stuff that Jake wishes he'd told him. He wishes he hadn't been so embarrassed by things his dad did when Jake was a kid, like dropping him off at school in posh Carmel with no shirt on. "He was a fucking caveman and he'd embarrass me all the time," Jake remembers. "And we fucking butted heads. He knew how to yell because he was a fucking Sicilian. But he was one of a kind. He fucking raised me right and taught me a lot of good lessons. And I'm thankful for it all."
Jake was angered by Don Curry's claim that Davi wasn't in shape to be out in the waves and by another person's suggestion that it was the drugs that allowed his father to fish through the night. "My dad worked his ass off fishing," says Jake. "If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been able to afford a million-dollar house. He had to fucking take care of shit, and he did."
On the way to the mortuary, Jake fell asleep at the wheel going 85 mph. Driving behind him, Liam McNamara was horror-struck to see Jake's truck drift into oncoming traffic. At the last instant, Jake says, he felt a slap to the face that could only have come from his father. He swerved, avoiding other cars but plowing into trees. Sure that he'd broken his neck, paramedics airlifted Jake to San Jose, but aside from some glass in his head, Jake and his dog Hueneme miraculously escaped unharmed.
It was part of a string of signs, Jake says, that began on December 4. Shortly after Davi disappeared, Flea Virostko endured what onlookers say was the heaviest wipeout they'd ever seen, sucked into the lip of a huge wave and augured in deep. "He told me he should have died on that wave," Jake says. "He said my dad grabbed him and brought him to the surface."
With medical bills and his father's mortgage, Jake knows he has to get serious about life right now. He wants to start up an outdoor equipment company and write a book about his dad. And one day earn invitations to the Mavericks and Eddie Aikau big-wave contests.
A few days after Davi's funeral, Jake, his sister, the McNamara brothers, Kealii Mamala, and a few other friends held a private memorial above the Carmel River mouth. As they sat, the biggest red-tailed hawk they'd ever seen perched nearby and stared at them for 30 minutes. "Dad was sitting right there," Jake says. "He saved Flea's life. He saved my life. My dad never got recognized at Pescadero Point, and they named it Ghost Tree. That was never the name. Now it's Peter's Tree. If you read the Bible, Peter means 'the rock.' Peter was a fisherman, and he was a fucking legend. Just like my dad."