Social media assists in camera's recovery

Mason Melcer attached his GoPro camera to a boogie board in summer 2012 and paddled out into the ocean, hoping to snare some remarkable shots of the waves.

It turned out to be the camera's last voyage. Mason, an 11-year-old Newport Beach resident who had saved up to buy the GoPro on eBay, mounted it on a board that was too soft to stay adhesive, and when the sea got rough, the device promptly disappeared.

But the footage Mason captured that day got an unexpected denouement a year and a half later. And if ever a story could be told by social media links, it's this one.


Facebook: Jan. 21

The 101-second video posted on the Facebook page I Love Newport Beach begins with Mason in the back seat of a car, after which the scene cuts to him standing in a wetsuit on the beach at Big Corona. Then, just as abruptly, the point of view shifts to the camera's, balanced on the board's tip, as it captures the waves and Mason splashing around in them.

Then comes a big wave, and the screen dissolves to black before a few seconds showing the muddy deep as the lens cascades down. A title card (incorrectly) announces "Nearly 5 Years Later," and then a scuba diver, accompanied by a friend filming her adventure, pries the GoPro from the ocean floor.

The final image shows the camera, back on dry land and mounted on a white sheet of paper, with the words "Still In Good Condition!" along the bottom of the screen. The caption below the video on I Love Newport Beach declares, "We believe the people are trying to find the owner..."


YouTube: Jan. 19

Flash back two days.

Scuba diver Ron Singh, who held his GoPro while Mimi Reyes fished out Mason's, posted a message on his YouTube account: "Went diving at Corona del Mar Jan. 4, 2014. We used our Gopro Hero 3 Black Edition. While diving my girlfriend and I found this GoPro Camera. It looks like the first GoPro Hero model. We took it home, dried it, tried it out and is working just fine. The case is a little corroded but in very good condition! The memory card still works, if anyone knows this kid let me know!"

As it turned out, someone knew that kid. I Love Newport Beach, a Facebook page launched in September 2011 by Tony Shaw, posted Singh's video soon after it went up, and Mason got unexpected news one day from a school friend.

"He said that his mom saw a video that an account posted on Facebook, and she said that it looked like one of his friends," said Mason, 12. "And then he showed it to me, and it was me."

Soon, his mother posted a comment on Singh's YouTube page: "Hi. My name is Katie Melcer. My son lost his go pro at big corona. He is the child in the video. He can't believe you found it. He was crushed when it fell off his boogie board." She included an email and phone number and noted that she had seen the video on Facebook, where she also posted a similar message to Singh.


In person: Feb. 8

Last week, Mason's family met with Singh and Reyes and retrieved the camera. Despite the "good condition" claim in the video, the GoPro no longer functioned. Still, the memory disk, which the finders used to piece together the first half of his video, had survived the long stay underwater.

When Singh and Reyes discovered the camera, en route back from an unsuccessful lobster-catching dive, about half an hour of footage remained on its disk. After editing it down and adding their footage at the end, they posted the video on YouTube in hopes of finding the owner.

The message from Katie came as a relief, according to Reyes.

"I was actually really excited," said the Bellflower resident, who works as a teacher (Singh owns a gas station). "We were really excited because we didn't think we would be able to find the owner at all. We didn't know if the family was around here, if they were in town on vacation."


YouTube: Feb. 11

In response to a query about the camera's fate, Singh posted on the video's page: "Yea, I returned it on Feb 8th. The family was very nice. We both shared our stories about the gopro and are currently trying to contact gopro to see if they want our footage in a commercial."

Katie, an actress who has filmed commercials before, confirmed that last statement. She knows a producer who works with GoPro, and they're busy working on a pitch for the advertising department.

"He thinks they would think it's a pretty cool story," Katie said. "We'll see what they think of it."

Mason, a seventh-grader at Corona del Mar Middle School, had already bought a new GoPro by the time his old one was recovered. He's taken the new one to the beach, but held onto it more carefully. And the first GoPro, though weathered and in several pieces, has become a valued souvenir.

As one of the comments on Facebook put it: "wow, the gopro was found by the gopro."

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