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Kevin Eslinger at Sunset Cliffs

Kevin Eslinger, a San Diego waterman, suffered a fractured skull after a paddleboarder smashed him over the head with a paddle at Sunset Cliffs in June of 2018. Photo: Screenshot/Jim Grant/10 News

The Inertia

On June 26, 2018, a 56-year-old surfer named Kevin Eslinger was allegedly hit over the head with a paddle by 34-year-old Paul Taylor Konen, who was surfing a stand-up paddleboard. Konen has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The incident happened at Sunset Cliffs, a popular break in San Diego. According to Fox 5, Eslinger is suffering from the lasting effects of the impact. “The prosecution contends that after Konen nearly ran into Eslinger out on the water — forcing Eslinger to duck his head in order to avoid being struck by Konen’s paddleboard — Eslinger objected to Konen’s flouting of proper surfing etiquette,” Fox reported. “Konen remarked, ‘If I can catch a wave, it’s mine,’ the victim alleged.”

Soon after that initial confrontation, Eslinger says that Konen ran into his wife and knocked her from her board. Eslinger then paddled over to Konen to confront him. It was then that he alleges Konen hit him over the head with his paddle.  After the attack, Eslinger swam back to shore under his own power. “He got himself out of the water,” said Pat Tope, one of Eslinger’s fellow swim coaches, to 10 News last year, “which is pretty remarkable.”

District Attorney Matthew Greco told the court on Friday that the blow “fractured [Eslinger’s] skull and caused brain damage, rendering him unable to speak at all until days after the injury.” Now, Eslinger says he suffers from impaired speech, which has affected his work as a teacher. Eslinger broke a paddleboarding distance record in 2005 when he paddled 120 miles from Santa Barbara Island to Ocean Beach in San Diego.

Konen’s defense attorney, Bryan McCarthy, tells a different story. According to him, Konen was trying to paddle away and the strike to the head may have been accidental. He argued that Eslinger shoved Konen’s board, which may have been when the injury occurred. “The question is did my client intentionally assault Mr. Eslinger or was there a situation where Mr. Eslinger got in front of my client’s path and got hurt?” McCarthy said.


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