I have been to memorials and paddle-out ceremonies for many great surfers and watermen. Dale Velzy, Dewey Weber and Leroy Grannis are three that really stick out in my mind. Their lives touched so many and their contributions were remarkable. On Sept. 15 I was blessed to be able to once again help honor a truly great individual — Dive N’ Surf/Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell, who had passed away at 84.
The outpouring of love and respect for Bob was evident everywhere I turned. There were close to a 1,000 people in the water off the Redondo Pier and 2,000 or so at Seaside Lagoon. I spent most of the day going from individual to individual or group to group connecting with old friends and making new ones. We all had one thing in common — a love for Bob. On many occasions I had to wipe tears from my cheeks as stories were being retold.
Deacon Jim Egnatuc (former Bishop Montgomery surf team coach) provided inspirational words and comfort from the 72-foot boat Disappearance. Local vocal and musical legend and former Mira Costa surf team coach Kevin Sousa provided heart felt entertainment all day from the water and at the Lagoon.
His rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was truly moving and something I will always remember. Jim Graham was masterful as master of ceremonies. No one does it better.
Jean Michael Cousteau supplied an insightful look into Bob’s life-long devotion to the ocean and efforts on educating people on how to respect the water world beneath us. Body Glove President Russ Lesser, along with Sarah Duke and Pat Dietz preformed, “Bob’s Song” composed specially for this occasion to rousing cheers. Hap Jacobs, former world surfing champion Peter Townsend, Scott Daily and Derek Levy all gave tributes from the podium.
There were surf stars a plenty in attendance such as five time world champion Margo Godfrey Oberg, Aussie Ian Cairns, Malibu’s Alan Sarlo, Chris Barela from Hawaii and Alex Gray who is fast approaching Mike Purpus as the South Bay’s most recognizable name ever. Kelly Slater and several industry standouts and pros expressed their regrets, but were committed to the World Championship Tour’s Hurley Pro event. The Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame was well represented, too. I spoke with Henry Ford, Don Craig, Darrel Dickie, Peff Eick, Hap Jacobs and Purpus. Sonny Vardeman and I were deeply moved as we were both so very fortunate to be inducted in 2004, along with four time world champion Linda Benson, to the H.B. WOF with Bob and Bill Meistrell.
Throughout the day there were many outstanding moments. But for me — at the conclusion of the water portion when the fire and lifeguard boats let the water fly from their cannons and a rainbow appeared, during a Coast Guard flyover — one of the most moving things I have ever experienced is the moment Patti, Bob’ wife of 60 years, released several white doves from the deck of the Disappearance. I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the water or on the sand.
South Bay Board Riders event #6 Series Championship takes place all day on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the south side of the Manhattan Pier.
Until next time: “Live to surf, surf to live.”