Members of the Cal Poly community are mourning the loss of 20-year-old electrical engineering rising junior Malcolm Feix, who died while surfing at Pomponio State Beach July 22.
Malcolm was an avid surfer, high school water polo star and seasonal California State lifeguard.
“Anytime there was a good swell he’d be in the water, or if he wasn’t in the water he’d be checking it. He definitely loved following the tide and the winds and the waves and knowing when and where and what beach to hit, that was definitely part of who he was,” Malcolm’s mother Jenny Feix said of her son. She added that Malcolm loved his communities in San Luis Obispo and Half Moon Bay.
Malcolm was a seasonal lifeguard for five years and worked as a 4-H camp counselor, water polo coach and as the hospitality manager for Half Moon Bay Yacht Club.
He began working at Half Moon Bay Yacht Club more than five years ago as a hospitality worker and became hospitality manager within the last year. According to Half Moon Bay Yacht Club Commodore Scott Pyne, Malcolm was much more than just a worker; he was a team leader.
“Character is an interesting thing about him. I think Malcolm had the ethics and the character that I wish every teenager had. He was really, really, very impressive in that regard,” Pyne said.
The Feix family is deciding how to commemorate Malcolm’s life, whether that be through a scholarship fund, an annual surfing event or something else. Jenny said they plan on having a big celebration of life to honor Malcolm and remember his easygoing personality, ability to make friends with anyone and his love for the water.
Malcolm’s younger brother Nathan said Malcolm was a leader and lived by the motto, “show up and be kind.” To commemorate his brother’s life, the 17 year-old plans to start a hashtag with the saying and put up signs at a local surf spot.
“He worked with state lifeguards and we have a junior lifeguard program where we teach younger kids about ocean safety and things like that. He only worked for five seasons, but the kids loved him … the kids always had great things to say about Malcolm,” Nathan said.
Longtime friend Sophia Padua said Malcolm’s character was not something that could simply be described in a couple of words.
“When thinking of him and how he approached life, I think of someone who truly enjoyed it to the fullest,” Padua wrote in an email to Mustang News. “I think of the kid who, every year on his birthday without fail, [would] laugh at me with his bright eyes, crinkle his perpetually sun burnt nose, grin the most contagious grin and remind me that he would always and forever be two days older than me.”
Padua and Malcolm met when they were 5 years-old and played together on the same soccer team.
“I think of how he would often remind me of how I deserved only the best and how genuinely stoked he would be when I had good news to share,” Padua wrote.
Another one of his childhood friends, environmental protection and management junior Ginny Dussell wrote that everyone in the relatively small town has a memory of Malcolm “always glowing gold with a big, toothy smile and a twinkly laugh in his eyes.”
“He was and still is everything I love about my hometown and the community there. He is the relationships that have roots that so run deep, the beautiful desolate cold beaches and the trails that run up the redwood canyons, and the bonfires everyone always came to and felt at home at,” Dussell wrote in an email to Mustang News. “Through that, I think he’ll always be there and live on because those things aren’t going away anytime soon.”
According to California State Lifeguards, Malcolm was off-duty at the time of his death. Public safety superintendent for California State Parks’ Santa Cruz district Bill Wolcott said an unidentified friend and lifeguard pulled him from the water. Although the San Mateo Coroner’s Office confirmed Malcolm’s death, the cause of death is unknown, according to Half Moon Bay Review.
President Jeffrey Armstrong sent out an email on Monday to the student body, faculty and staff addressing the community’s loss and listing the resources available to Cal Poly students.
“Announcements like these are always difficult, particularly when we are not together as a campus community to comfort each other. We want you to know that Cal Poly is here to support you, even if you’re away from campus this summer,” Armstrong wrote.
Counseling services are available to students through the Cal Poly crisis line at (805) 756-2511. Additional health and counseling services can be found on the Cal Poly Campus Health and Wellbeing webpage.
A GoFundMe page has been created by the Cal Poly Surf Team to raise money for a charity the Feix family believe Malcolm would want to support most.