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Corky Carroll on funerals and a paddle out gone wrong


Corky's Corner

Corky Carroll on remembering those departed surfers

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 14 February, 2009 : - - One of the hardest parts of becoming a surfing senior citizen, or as is more often used as a more apt discription within the surf community, a geezer, is that more and more people you know keep passing away.  It gets to be a drag getting the news that somebody that you know, who more often than not is even younger than you has moved on to the big perfect wave in the sky.  Or perhaps the big closed out shorebreak with the nasty rocks and boiling water with biting sharks down below. 

Last week I sadly wrote about local surf legend Rocky Freeman moving on.  This week I am going to write about another surfer who for what will become obvious reasons I am going to leave un-named.  There is good reason for that.

There is a custom within the surfing world that when a member of the surf community dies all his friends throw him, or her, a “paddle out.”  A paddle out is sort of like a surfers version of a funeral.  Everyone paddles out beyond the persons favorite local surf break and arranges himself or herself in a circle. 

Many time leis or flowers are tossed into the middle of the circle.  Then each person in the circle says something about the person who has died and a few prayers are said and everone paddles in and heads to the party, which is sort of a surfer’s version of a wake.  In cases where the deceased has been cremated it is the custom to spread the ashes in the circle as the prayers are said.

Normally these paddle out sessions are pretty sad and sentimental and are much like a normal funeral except it is held in the ocean and on surfboards.  Nonetheless the vibe is about the same.  Solemn and reverent and all that.   Occasionally somebody will say something funny, like at a funeral, but it is always in good taste and done with love and honor for the deceased surfer.   Hardly ever do these surf ceremonies get away from normal custom.  Hardly ever.

Well, I guess you can tell by when I say “hardy ever” it means that once in awhile one does.   And this obviously is the story of one that went wrong.  Very very wrong.

A local surfer from Newport Beach recently passed away and a paddle out was set up.  This particular dude was also sort of a party animal and very well known for overdoing it in the area of tequila.  Let’s call him Tequila Tom for this occasion.  That was not his real name, but it was very close to that.  The day of Tequila Toms paddle out all of his buddies where there in the circle and somebody thought it only right that they all pass around a very large family sized bottle of Toms favorite tequila. 

And as each one said his or her thing about Tom they ended it by taking a large slug of the tequila.  As it was a very large bottle this went around a few times and more things were said and it started getting more funny than serious.  Finally it became time for the ashes to be spread into the circle. 

The ash bearer, I guess you would call him that, held up the urn and reached in a grabbed a handful of Tequila Tom and instead of spreading him on the water he laughed and tossed them all over the dude sitting next to him.  One thing led to another and soon a full on dead guy’s ashes fight ensued.  And, I guess more appropriately than not this is how Tequila Tom got buried off the lineup of one of Newport Beach’s more popular surf spots.

So wrong, so very wrong.  Yet, at the same time, in this case probably the right thing for this dude.   He lived a party animal and died a party animal.  Might as well be sent off the same way.  I am sure Tequila Tom was loving the whole thing. 

I sincerely hope that nobody else I know kicks off before next week.  Even though this one was amusing to write about I still don’t like it when I have to hear about yet another pal passing away.  It’s getting so I have the check out the obits every few days just to make sure I’m still here.  Ya never know who you are gonna find there.

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Corky Carroll

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