Firefighters and rescue personnel in California have suspended their search for a 21-year-old Hawaii man reported missing on Lake Tahoe on Friday. Marc Ma, a graduate of ‘Iolani School and a sophomore defensive end on the Nevada Wolf Pack football team, was on a paddleboard trip with a group of friends and teammates Friday afternoon when they encountered strong winds off Lake Tahoe’s west shore.
North Tahoe Fire Protection District officials say crews were called shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday to Obexer’s Marina West Shore, about 700 yards offshore.
North Tahoe fire spokesman Ron Carson said other paddleboarders had turned back toward shore because of high winds and noticed one person was missing.
Ma’s board was later found adrift.
Several agencies including the Coast Guard assisted in the search. Helicopters from CalStar and the Navy conducted air searches.
Friday’s search was called off at 6 p.m. The search resumed early Saturday morning but suspended shortly after 5 p.m. with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office announcing it had exhausted all of its options.
A 2014 graduate, Ma was a first-team ILH football all-star in 2012 and ’13 as a member of the Raiders’ defensive line and was an honorable mention All-State pick as a senior. Listed at 6 feet 2 and 230 pounds, Ma redshirted at Nevada last fall and was heading into his sophomore year with the Wolf Pack.
“I think he symbolized what we’re all about,” said ‘Iolani football coach and co-athletic director Wendell Look. “We preach selflessness and sacrifice and according to the reports that’s what he did for his friends and his teammates and how this tragic accident unfolded. It doesn’t surprise me that he would do that. It fits him.
“He’s a fighter. He was chasing his dream of playing Division I football and he never lost sight of that and he worked and did everything he could to achieve that,” Look added. “By all accounts from what I’ve heard from people, this was going to be his breakout year at Nevada.
“We’re very saddened and all of our prayers and well wishes go out to the Ma family. They know ‘Iolani School is there for them and will support them in any way we can.”
Ma also played three varsity seasons with the ‘Iolani basketball program, spending his sophomore and junior seasons on the Division I roster and his senior year with the Division II team. Raiders coach Dean Shimamoto recalled the switch between Ma’s low-key demeanor off the court and his tenacity in the paint.
“He was relentless in everything he did. The guy’s motor was unbelievable,” Shimamoto said.
“We didn’t know how he would do it sometimes. Offensive rebounds, he was just monster. … He just played with a ton of heart, a ton of want, a ton of energy and just a competitor. When you interact with him, kind of quiet. But when you see him play, he was just kind of an animal.”
University of Nevada head football coach Brian Polian released a statement late Saturday on the program website.
“The Placer County Sheriff’s Office is calling this search one of recovery, not rescue,” Polian said. “As such, it is with an incredibly heavy heart that we acknowledge the loss of Marc Ma, a beloved member of our Wolf Pack family.”
Polian said he and his wife spent time with Ma’s parents near the search site.
“Marc was a very special young man and it was an honor to work with him,” Polian said. “He was universally liked and respected by his teammates, coaches and staff. Marc excelled in the classroom and had grown by leaps and bounds in the weight room and on the football field. His easy smile and cheerful demeanor belied a fierce competitive nature that would emerge in practice and excite our team.
“Our team has lost a friend and a brother and we are hurting right now. I have no doubt that we will rally together to love and support one another in manner that will honor Marc’s memory.”