Well-known community surfer Barry Ault, 71, went surfing shortly before Christmas despite warnings to avoid it for three days because of runoff from a recent rainstorm. He soon developed flu-like symptoms, and was in a coma just days later, his wife, Sally Ault, told ABC's San Diego affiliate KGTV.
Ault, "the essential water man," died Christmas Day, his wife told the station.
"He had a raging staph infection, so he was in complete sepsis," Sally Ault told KGTV. "His whole body was full of staph."
Although staph infections can usually be treated with antibiotics, they weren't enough to save Ault because he had an underlying condition, Dr. Eric McDonald of San Diego county's Health and Human Services Agency said.
He had a recently replaced heart valve, his wife told KGTV.
Ault's wife said two of his other friends also became sick after surfing with him that last day. She couldn't blame the bacteria in the water "because there's no proof, but it's too big of a coincidence," she said.
In the wake of her husband's death, Ault's wife told KGTV she hopes people heed warnings not to surf after rainstorms.
"But there's runoff everywhere, so I would just hope that anybody who, after a rain, would just wait, even when the surf is good," she said. "There's going to be another good day."