Influences: Jason Bennett

Jason Bennett

Age: 26

Height: 5’9″

Weight: 180

Hometown: Oceanside, California

Influences: family, friends, music, and most of all, his late father Harry

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It was a morning in January 1994, Jason Bennett was a sixteen-year-old up-and-coming surfer and hanging at his favorite spot—the south side of Oceanside Pier. Like many other mornings during his life, he’d surfed the Pier and hung out in the parking lot with his father Harry and all the other locals and friends. If anybody was supportive of Jason’s budding career, it was his dad—Harry was a rock of support for many of the local Oceanside kids. That morning wasn’t any different. “We were all catching waves together, surfing together,” reminisced Jason. “On the last wave, we (Jason and Harry) were cruising together, laughing—I jokingly snaked him. I went in, did my normal thing, ate with my friends, and then went back to the local shop where we all hung out (including his dad) and he’d left, saying he’d pick me up later—that was the last I ever saw of him.”

Harry never picked him up, because later on that day he passed away from a heart attack, leaving Jason to move ahead without someone who’d influenced him his whole life: “It was unreal—shock. When I finally got home, I found out.”

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Although devastated by the tragedy, Harry Bennett’s influence on Jason as a youngster survives to this day. “He makes me strive every day to be a better man—the way he was with everybody,” says Jason. “He was my friend more than anything. He hung out at the pier with the boys, and they went to him for whatever—to chill, talk to.”

Harry taught Jason to surf at age four, got him his first surfboard, got Jason into music and art, and was always looking out for others—and that’s what Jason remembers the most. Harry was an aerospace engineer who’d been laid off after the Gulf War despite 25 years of service. Even though financial troubles affected his health, he always kept a positive attitude with his family. His example helped mold Jason into a young man, and it was up to Jason to follow through. “Now that I’m actually paying bills and dealing with daily life, I think about him and how every day of life’s a struggle. I try not to take life so serious because it could kill you like it did my dad.”

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The legacy of his father still persists to this day, both in the community and Jason’s heart. Every year, Oceanside locals get together during the annual Surf For The Sea contest and remember the man and others like him who had a lasting impression on their lives and helped them become who they are today.—Checkwood