In memoriam: The surfers we lost this year

As the book starts to close on 2017, we wanted to take a look back at some of the people the surf world lost this year. There were some very influential legends of the sport that passed on to that big wave in the sky, and we wanted to pay tribute to all of them before we look forward to 2018. Ride in Peace.

John Severson, Jack O’Neill, Zander Venezia and Bruce Brown. Photos: Courtesy of Instagram and O’Neill

Jack O'Neill (1923-2017)

Jack O’Neill. Photo: Courtesy of O’Neill

The original surf pioneer, Jack O’Neill is credited with inventing the wetsuit, creating one of the first major surf companies and opening one of California’s first surf shops. His 94 years on Earth were spent dedicated to surfing.

John Severson (1933-2017)

The founder of SURFER, John Severson envisioned a world long before it came to be (just like Jack O’Neill). He published a 36-page magazine to promote his film “Surf Fever” in 1960, which he called “The Surfer.” This later became “Surfer Quarterly” and eventually grew into the SURFER we know and love today.

Bruce Brown (1937-2017)

I remember the day I saw Endless Summer for the first time. I was a new surfer at the time. I watched it at a friend's house. His dad put it on the VHS player and left the room. As the movie played we soaked it in. I don't think we talked, but we laughed as we went on the journey with those classic longboarder dudes. At the time I was ten and I felt surfing was the same like baseball or soccer. More of an activity and a fun sport. After watching the film a light bulb went off. Surfers weren't just athletes but they were authentic, light-hearted, cool, travelers and they enjoyed life to the fullest. I want to be apart of that tribe. That movie confirmed it: surfers were cool. I wonder how many people he inspired through his films? I would guess millions were impacted by Endless Summer alone. The cool thing is he was just making a movie to stoke out surfers. Just like all surf filmmakers are still trying to do. Yet all surf films after that have lived in the shadow of that epic. Endless Summer was a massive mainstream success. When you think about it, having Bruce doing press talks all around the US during the release must have been classic. Especially the landlocked states. How lucky were us surfers to have Bruce back then as the spokesperson for surfing? Someone with his wicked sense of humor and a down to earth world traveler. I'm sure in Ohio or New York in the '60s they were tripping on that swell rider fellow. I can see him playing it up but in a subtle way that would fit a scene from the movie itself. A couple days ago we lost one of the true legends of surfing. Yet unlike other legends, we can pop on his movie and hear Bruce's voice tell us a joke. Tribes used to tell ancient ancestor stories around a fire to teach and entertain the young. Basically, lessons passed down from generation to generation on how to live. Endless Summer will be doing that for many more generations. Thank you, Bruce Brown for finding your passion and sharing it with us. Rest in Peace.

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Bruce Brown gave the mainstream world the first legitimate look at surfing and surf travel with his legendary film “The Endless Summer.” He was a true surf film pioneer and can be held directly responsible for launching surf trips and surf film careers ever since. A legend the likes of which we’ll never see again.

Dick Catri (1938-2017)

“The Godfather of East Coast Surfing,” Dick Catri was the first East Coaster to surf Pipeline and Waimea Bay. Catri helped establish a true surf industry on the East Coast in its infant days, which led to opportunities East Coast surfers have enjoyed to this day.

Zander Venezia (2001-2017)

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This one particularly hurts because of how young Zander Venezia was. While surfing a shallow break near his home on Barbados called “Box by Box” during Hurricane Irma, Venezia was caught inside by a big set and slammed into the reef. Venezia was a promising young pro junior already making a name for himself on the North America circuit. His passing is a truly tragic one.

Sophia Tiaré Bartlow (1991-2017)

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A rising queen of the paddle world, Sophia Tiaré Bartlow was the 2014 U.S. SUP Surfing Tour champion. She tragically passed away in a car crash with her boyfriend on the island of Oahu. As the daughter of World Champion surfer Jericho Poppler, Bartlow’s bright future in the surf world was imminent.

Jean da Silva (1985-2017)

WQS veteran Jean da Silva was a bright and cheery surfer who constantly made others laugh. But he struggled severely with depression, and ultimately took his own life. It was a gut-blow of a loss, and one that is going to hurt the surf world for some time.

Oscar Moncada (1983-2017)

Happening just days after he paid tribute to Jean da Silva’s passing, big-wave surfer and local Puerto Escondido standout Oscar Moncada was killed in a car crash in Mexico. He spent two years on the Big Wave Tour and consistently set the standard for high-performance riding at the Mexican Pipeline.

Paul Burke (1958-2017)

Paul Burke. Photo: Courtesy of GoFundMe

A California surfboard shaper and former professional surfer, Paul Burke was hit and killed by a car while riding his bike to his surfboard factory. Leaving behind a wife and four children, this was a tragic loss for the Southern California surf community and his friends and family.

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