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Joshua Carter

A coast guard patrol helicopter flies overhead near Sharp Beach in Pacifica, Calif. on Jan. 19, 2023. The helicopter has been looking for an SF State student who went missing around 10:30 and was still searching as of 6 p.m. (Joshua Carter / Golden Gate Xpress)

BREAKING: SF State student missing off the coast of Pacifica

A swimmer, identified as an SF State student by university officials, went missing after being swept away by a large wave off the coast of Pacifica.

January 19, 2023

Update 12:02 p.m.

University officials have identified the swimmer as Hamzah Al-Saudi, a senior on the wrestling team majoring in Political Science with a minor in Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies.

“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and classmates of beloved student and athlete Hamzah Al-Saudi who remains missing following yesterday’s tragic accident,” the University said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Coast Guard and the Pacifica Police Department for all they have done. Campus resources are available for the members of our community who need assistance during this difficult time.”

Coach Jason Welch and Senior Associate Director Brandon Davis said members of the wrestling team, where Al-Saudi wrestled for two seasons, are processing their feelings and checking in on one another during this difficult time.

SF State Vice President Jamillah Moore reinforced the need for SF State students to take care of one another and take advantage of resources available on campus, such as counselors and psychological services, the links to which are listed below.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Gator community as we process this news,” Moore said in a statement.


An SF State student went missing off the coast in Pacifica around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a press release from the Pacifica Police Department.

“Officers from the Pacifica Police Department and personnel from the North County Fire Authority and American Medical Response responded to Esplanade Beach for a reported swimmer in distress,” acting Police Chief Christopher Clements wrote in the release.

The swimmer, a man in his 20s, was reported to have been swimming in the ocean when a large wave hit and pulled him away from shore.

Two adult men accompanied him in the ocean, but were able to leave the water successfully and called 911 shortly after.

Police officers and firefighters weren’t able to locate the swimmer and requested assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Highway Patrol air unit and other personnel to help with the search.

University officials confirmed the missing person is a student at SF State.

“We are aware of reports of a search for an SF State student in the waters off Pacifica,” the university said in an official statement. “The entire SF State community is hoping for a safe recovery. Our thoughts are with the student’s family, friends and classmates. We are grateful to the Coast Guard and the Pacifica Police Department for their ongoing work.”

The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory along the coast until 10 p.m. this evening and noted precautionary actions.

“Remain out of the water due to dangerous surf conditions, or stay near occupied lifeguard towers,” the agency said.

The incident comes after weeks of storms that called for a coastal flood advisory along Bay Area shorelines. Residents at Esplanade Beach, where the search began, said the cliffs along the shoreline are in a state of disrepair after the storms.

“You can’t even see the beach anymore and it isn’t safe to climb the cliffs after the storm,” said Shannon White, who visits Esplanade Beach every day.  

A Coast Guard vessel and aircraft are still searching the area as of 5:50 p.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is subject to change as the story develops.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Myron Caringal
Myron Caringal, Engagement Editor
Myron Caringal (he/they) is the engagement editor for Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine. He is a transfer student at SF State majoring in journalism and minoring in critical social thought. Myron is originally from Orange County, California, and currently resides in San Francisco. He previously served as diversity editor and then as managing editor for GGX. Myron hopes to transition into the digital engagement side of the media industry as a current intern for KQED's Audience Development team. During his free time, Myron enjoys traveling, trying new foods, attending music festivals and binge-watching series.
Photo of Joshua Carter
Joshua Carter, Editor-in-Chief
Joshua Carter (he/him) is the editor-in-chief for Golden Gate Xpress. He transferred from CCSF as a creative writing major but quickly switched to photojournalism with a minor in geography once he landed at SF State. Joshua spent six years in the Navy, served as photo and nonfiction editor at Forum literary magazine, interned as an editorial intern at Alternative Press, and is striving to be a groundbreaking filmmaker and multimedia journalist. In his free time he listens to audiobooks, falls into wiki holes for hours, and performs with his punk band.

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