First East Coast surfer to ride Pipeline and Waimea passes away

It is with heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of East Coast surf legend Dick Catri. According to Florida Today, after battling multiple strokes and skin cancer, Catri passed away on Monday at 79 years old.

Catri was often referred to as “the Godfather of East Coast surfing”, as he helped establish the beginnings of the surf industry on the East Coast when he came back to Florida in the early 1960s from California and Hawaii.

According to The Encyclopedia of Surfing, Catri had met California Jack Murphy in Miami in 1957 and in 1959 they drove to California together. Catri then moved to the North Shore of Oahu and over the next five years “he worked as a lifeguard at the Pearl Harbor Officers’ Club, fixed dings and swept the floors at Surfboards Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu (where he learned how to build surfboards), and became the first East Coast surfer to ride Pipeline and Waimea Bay.”

But home was calling, and in the spring of 1964 Catri moved back to Florida and opened the Satellite Beach Surf Shop. Right off the bat he established one of the best surf teams all over the world, with riders including Bruce Valluzzi, Mimi Munro, Mike Tabeling and Gary Propper. They eventually became part of the Hobie Surfboards empire.

Catri would go on to do a plethora of other things for Florida and East Coast surfing: In 1966 he opened Shagg’s Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida; he founded the precursor to the Cocoa Beach Easter Surfing Festival; he started Catri Surfboards in 1968 and became Clark Foam’s very first East Coast distributor; he helped end the war between fishermen and surfers at Sebastien Inlet in the 70s; and he even helped coach an amateur Kelly Slater.

Kelly Slater’s brother Sean Slater told Florida Today, “He had been fighting a lot of things. It’s a shame. A lot of things to be thankful for. We used to pile in my dad’s brown VW van every Sunday and head to practice. We’d do exercises on the beach … he was a good guy, taking us in, teaching.”

Fellow East Coast legend Matt Kechele was also brought up under the guidance of Catri. Kechele told Florida Today, “I think we’re all grateful for his contributions that he made for surfing, for his friendship, for his moral support. We all looked up to him.”

Catri will certainly be missed by all. Rest in peace Dick Catri.

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