...a male & female point of view...We are two former coworkers who share similar ideas on what's absurd...or just plain funny...thought we could offer a unique view on life & stuff...

Monday, January 22, 2007



As I was reading the paper on Sunday...this story stayed with me:


Giving a Surfer his Final Send-off

On Friday evening, I was getting ready to go to bed so I could get up early to participate in the big paddle-out ceremony in honor of recently deceased surfer Jack Meyer... around noon the beach began to fill up with people in wetsuits. There were attractive young girls. There were old guys with pot bellies. There were a couple hundred in all. Judging by the numbers, you'd think Meyer had been the world surfing champion or something. Actually, he was just a genuinely friendly guy.

That's a rare thing in the modern world and even rarer in the world of surfing. There's only room for one surfer on each wave. This can create a Hobbesian atmosphere in the lineup, a war of all against all. I for one still maintain resentment against guys who cut me off during the Watergate crisis.

Meyer seems to have been above all that. One of my old grammar-school classmates, Greg Me sanko, told me of how he ran into Meyer in Santa Barbara, Calif., about 20 years ago and was so caught up by his enthusiasm that he immediately asked him to move back to the East Coast and manage his surf shop.

"He brought this incredible aloha spirit into the store," Me sanko said.

A while later Meyer got a chance to work for Local Motion, one of the big Hawaiian surfboard brands.

"Four days later he was calling me up from Tahiti," Mesanko said.

Such was the life of a "rep" in the surf industry. "Rep" is shorthand for manufacturer's representative. Only a handful of surfers ever make money surfing, but many make a living selling the clothing and equipment that are connected to surfing.

Unlike most reps, Meyer had a talent other than surfing. He was an accomplished graphic artist who could airbrush intricate designs of waves and dolphins onto a board before it was fiberglassed. Some of the boards were on display at the beach yesterday.

It was impressive work, but it only paid about $25 a pop. People who work in the surf industry tend to take their pay more in waves than in money. Meyer traveled frequently to places like California and Florida. A week ago he was out for a jog in Melbourne Beach when he had a heart attack and died.

In addition to being a fanatic surfer, the 53-year-old Meyer was also a triathlete. But heart disease ran in his family. His father, also named Jack, died of a heart attack at age 34 in 1967. Just a few years before he had been a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and young Jack inherited much of his athletic talent. Unfortunately he had also inherited his heart problems.

The paddle-out was preceded by a memorial ceremony that nicely combined elements of traditional Christianity with nature worship. "Dear Lord, heavenly father, Mother Ocean ...," said surfer/minister Regan Quail in one oration that concluded with "aloha and mahalo," Hawaiian terms for "goodbye" and "thanks."

The assembled surfers were then handed carnations and instructed on how to carry out the ceremony, which involves elements of both Hawaiian and Fijian tradition. Hawaii and Fiji are, of course, warm all year.

For some reason, perhaps out of a perverse sense of humor, East Coast surfers tend to die in winter. The last such paddle-out I attended was on a January day two years ago that was even colder than yesterday.

There's something about the winter ocean, though, that puts you in touch with nature in a way that nothing else can quite equal. Warm climes like California and Florida tend to attract a lot of dilettantes, surfers who are more interested in looking good than surfing good. Jersey attracts the hard core, guys who want that cold slap in the face that tells you to wake up and pay attention to what's going on around you.

There isn't much of a beach scene in winter, though. You can't hang out and chat while you're working on your tan. So these paddle-outs are one of the few opportunities to socialize and catch up on the news.

The paddle-out itself was a relatively quick affair. Back on the beach I asked Mesanko about another legendary local surfer who I hadn't seen in years, a guy named Fran. I'd heard a story about one of the last things Fran had done be fore he dropped out of sight. It seems that some younger surfer -- a "grommet" in surf parlance -- was failing to show Fran the respect he was due as one of the original crew at the pier in Seaside. Fran finally got fed up. He grabbed the grommet's board.

I asked Greg to confirm, for journalistic purposes, what happened next.

"He took a big bite out of it," Greg said. "He bit the nose off the board."

Fran died a couple of years ago, Greg said. He keeled over while playing saxophone in a bar in Tijuana. That seemed like a fitting end for a colorful character. Unfortunately Fran never got a paddle- out.

As for Meyer, his paddle-out will go down in the books as a classic. In baseball perhaps the nice guys finish last, but in surfing they get quite a send-off.


...I know...that was A LONG READ...I know...but I thought it was an thought-provoking story about an interesting character. I didn't know what a paddle-out was before reading this...so, there's that...also I like his whole 'Mother Earth-Aloha-free-spirited-life' vibe he had flowing there.

Hey, sometimes I don't read you...because your posts are too freaking long too...it's all cool...peace.

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