SEATTLE — From now on, volleyball games will be one person short.
Sophy Math, 44, was a fixture at the nets at Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park.
He was easy to spot, friends said: muscular, like a “short Greek god,” and always talking, always laughing.
When he wasn’t on the beach, Math was playing basketball, singing karaoke or trying to win a game of trivia at the bar.
“He had so much life in him,” said Bridgette Patrona, a friend. “He was always moving, he was always doing something. He couldn’t sit still.”
In his day job, he was an account executive at Angel Oaks Mortgage Solutions. A biography on the company’s website notes he worked in real estate for 13 years.
Nobody expected him to die Wednesday afternoon.
Math was out crabbing north of the Mukilteo ferry terminal — something he did often, friends say — when his inflatable boat capsized. Witnesses reported seeing him try to swim to shore before losing sight of him.
Local agencies sent out rescue swimmers, boats and a helicopter in an hours-long effort to find him. They suspended the search when the sky turned dark, decreasing visibility in the water. The chilly water of Puget Sound can make it difficult or impossible to stay afloat for long, even for the strongest swimmers.
Hours later, a man’s body washed ashore. It was Math. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined he drowned.
Family and friends gathered at Edgewater Beach Park to remember him on Thursday. They lit candles and placed flowers, then went out to recover his crab pots.
The plan had been to celebrate over happy hour if he caught 10 Dungeness crabs. Twelve were in the pots.
“He’d have been so proud,” a family member wrote to The Daily Herald. “ … Sophy was a light in this world. His absence will forever leave a hole in our hearts.”
After news of Math’s death was reported, stories flooded social media, recalling the positive energy he brought to every situation.
When it came to beach volleyball, a sport that could often be cliquey and hard to break into, Math went out of his way to include newcomers.
“Sophy was one of those people no matter what your skill set was, he’d bring you on the court,” said Vince Rubio, who founded the volleyball group Side-Out Seattle with Math.
Math didn’t care about winning, but he could beat just about anyone if he wanted, Rubio said. He could set the ball perfectly for his partner to hit it. And when it was his turn to hit the ball, he knew just how to place it so his opponents would have to scramble for a chance at a return.
Anyone who gave Math a reason to play more seriously would need a lot of luck.
“If someone was being rude or mean, he would absolutely turn it up and take him down a peg,” Rubio said.
Math’s personality would be on full display at his annual OGGG Nets Down Tourney, where his friends and family would gather at Golden Gardens for some less-than-serious play.
Players would be subject to Math’s made-up-on-the-spot rules.
A lot of them were about drinking, Rubio wrote in a Facebook post.
“Want a do over? Shot”
“Want to sub someone in? Shot”
“Want to make it so the other team can’t jump for a rally? Shot”
“Want Sophy to play as a 3rd player for the entire game? Shotgun a beer.”
Rubio said the volleyball community will continue the tournament in his name, and find other ways to memorialize him.
Julia Freeland said Math “touched all levels of the volleyball community.”
She listed off the lessons he’s left behind: “Smile, laugh even more, include everybody, be creative, there’s always a treasure to be found.”
Family and friends will gather at 3 p.m. Saturday at Golden Gardens Park for a bonfire to celebrate Sophy Math, “rain or shine.” By Friday afternoon, more than 160 people on Facebook said they would be there.