William Griffith, 26, went into the water with a friend when they were both swept up in a rip current and were carried out passed the surf line.
A man on shore noticed the two being carried out to sea, called 911 and swam out in an attempt to rescue the men.
While he managed to pull one of the swimmers ashore, he could not get to Griffith.
"He did not wanna come in because he just saw his friend go down and I did too," said Patrick Kneebone. "I pulled him to the beach, he was fighting me and I got him onto the beach, and a couple took over that were watching the whole thing so that I could spot the lifeguard who'd showed up right when I grabbed the guy, and after that I directed the lifeguard where to go."
It took two hours for helicopters to recover Griffith's body.
Beachgoers are being warned of a big swell expected to hit Southern California beaches Tuesday, bringing surf between 6 and 10 feet. A high surf advisory went into effect at 7 a.m.