Shawn “Barney” Barron died on May fifth. He collapsed at his home after spending a day clearing weeds. His death rocked the surfing world, and nowhere harder than his hometown of Santa Cruz. According to the Santa Cruz County coroner, his death was caused by cardiac tamponade due to hemopericardium–in other words, a tear in Barron’s aorta allowed the sac surround his heart to fill with blood, which restricted the heart’s movement.
“A cause of that was acute and chronic methamphetamine use,” said Santa Cruz County sheriff’s detective Nick Baldridge. Barron’s father said that genetics also had a hand in his son’s death. “I have a history of heart problems, quite frankly,” he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “He was not a drug addict. He could have died surfing or riding a bike. The heart attack was coming.”
Brenna Darcey, Barney’s long-time girlfriend, told the Sentinel that he “was not a regular drug user at all.” When Barney died, he had a small amount of meth in his blood–around 20 nanograms per milliliter. According to Baldridge, Barron either used meth close to the time he died, or used enough of it in the days before his death to remain in his system.
Barney’s struggle with drugs was a long one, and in the years before his death, he, along with many other Maverick’s regulars, had either gotten clean or worked very hard at it.
“Certain parts of your life are harder than others,” said Darryl “Flea” Virostko to the Sentinel. Flea was a lifelong friend of Barney’s, and started a clean living facility called Fleahab.
Barron was renowned for being one of the hardest charging people at Maverick’s, as well as his incredible aerial surfing. He volunteered at the Mauli Ola Foundation and Operation Surf for years, introducing kids with cystic fibrosis and wounded military veterans to to surfing. He was also an artist who gave away his paintings.
“It’s just difficult. I don’t want that (meth use) to even come out about Barney. He’s my friend,” said Flea. “Barney was just an amazing person in all different ways. He never would get mad. He was full of talent. He brought people together.”
Our deepest sympathies to Shawn’s family, friends, and the entire Santa Cruz community.