Tomas Butterfield, 42 of Sacramento was killed in a fatal shark attack in Morro Bay the day before Christmas.
He had traveled down to spend the Christmas holiday with his mom and brother.
"Tomas and his brother, Ben, spent a good portion of their growing up years in Ketchikan, Alaska," said Grant Butterfield, Tomas's uncle.
Where his love for the ocean began.
"I think that's where Tom probably get his affinity for the water and fishing, and anything ocean was a big deal for him," said Butterfield.
The chilly December water off Morro Bay was likely not a big challenge compared to Alaska.
"Christmas Eve morning Tomas decided he would go out for a little boogie board and get himself a little ocean time in," said Butterfield.
Tomas's brother, Ben, arrived at their mother's house later that morning.
"When Ben showed up he asked his mom, 'where's Tomas?' and she said that she'd tried to call him but hadn't raised him so they decided to go over to the beach where they knew he would be," said Butterfield.
They were met by a swarm of emergency services vehicles and learned the 42-year-old had been killed by a shark.
A nearby surfer, Rebecca Frimmer of Morro Bay, saw Tomas's boogie board in the water but he was unconscious when she got to him.
Tomas was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Tomas was very quiet and introspective. I mean if you got a full-on belly laugh out of him for anything, you were a winner," said Butterfield.
Those who knew Tomas well said he was a talented fisherman.
"It was hard to get him to come out of his shell, but once he's out, boy, stay out of the way because he was a fish-catching machine," said Butterfield.
Remembered fondly by family and friends.
"If he was a knucklehead I would let you know, but he wasn't. He was a great, great kid," said Butterfield.
A kind, gentle soul being mourned by many of those whose lives he touched during the short life of his own.