Nancy Franta and her husband, John, were walking their two dogs on the beach on March 30 when they noticed “a beautiful sight” — a large group of people gathered on the sand and a few surfers in the water.
The Grover Beach couple learned the group was honoring a local man who had recently died. They paused to pay their respects and continued walking north toward Shell Beach, Nancy Franta recalled Tuesday.
On the walk back in the growing darkness, they stumbled across a surfboard. Worried that it might wash out to sea, or be taken by someone else with questionable intentions, they decided to take it home and search for the owner.
“I wanted whoever had lost it to have that board back,” said Franta, 59.
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Before they could do so, the couple left town for work — and remained unaware that a massive effort was underway on social media to find the board.
The brown longboard with the yellowish golf trim belonged to Todd Everett, a Pismo Beach man who died Feb. 20, a little more than two years after he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
The board was left behind after a celebration was held in his memory on the beach in front of the Sandcastle Inn in Pismo Beach. Everett’s widow, Jennifer, later realized it was missing.
To help bring it back, her sister, Julie Olson, posted a photo of Jennifer and the couple’s 6-year-old son, Oliver, along with a drawing of the longboard on Facebook on April 9.
“The surfboard is priceless to us and especially to his son,” Olson wrote. “We know someone had to have picked it up, but we cannot locate it.”
Her post went viral; to date, about 22,700 people have shared it. Jennifer Everett also posted an ad on Craigslist and hung fliers around the beach and Pismo Beach Pier area.
Nancy Franta said she went back to the beach with her dogs Sunday. She walked down some steps south of the pier, sat down on the bottom step, looked to her left and spotted a flier with Everett’s photo.
She called her husband, who found Everett’s email through Craigslist and contacted her. Everett said she spent most of the day Monday “sitting on pins and needles,” waiting to learn whether it was the right board.
Nancy Franta drove it to her home that afternoon.
“I was so relieved and crying,” Everett recalled. She had held out hope that the board would be returned.
“It makes no sense at all, but so many people expressed in person and online that they just knew it was going to come back,” she said.
The outpouring of support “was completely helpful at a time when I could have been bummed out and sad,” Everett added. “So many people being supportive and caring made me feel like life is OK.”