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One More Paddle Out

August 16, 2019

For those of you who are not of the surfing world, a Paddle Out is a ritual where we surfers say goodbye to one of our own who has left us. A paddle-out is a time-honored tradition by those with an ocean-centered lifestyle, dating back to Hawaiian burial rituals. Participants enter the water together and float on the surface on their surfboards, hands linked one by one to form a circle. We gather, paddle out on our surfboards to a quiet spot in the vast ocean to say goodbye to one of our own. I have been a participant in a couple and an onlooker to many others. Yet others I have been forced to miss.

On August 3, 2019 one of my friends and former surf club member passed away unexpectantly. He was a member of the Rising Sons Surf Club back in the 1960s. His name was Ray Sheehan. I received the news of Ray’s passing here in Italy some 6,000 miles away from where Ray lived and near where we once surfed together some 55 years ago. It was a stinging news that drives a nail through one’s heart and reminds us all that we are only here for a short while.

Ray lived down the street from me in San Fernando, California. He was a grade and a half behind me in Sylmar High School and I honestly can’t remember exactly how we became friends; we just gravitated toward each other as neighbors and surfers. I do remember that he was a member of the Rising Sons Surf Club, of which I was president for some time. I also recall that Ray as somewhat small built, agile on a surfboard and with a fierce sense of humor. He was frequently a passenger in my 1956 Chevy Wagon as we headed for various beaches in Southern California and Mexico. Above all he was simply a fun guy!

I and others used to refer to Ray as The Ant; I can’t remember precisely why although I think it had something to do with the way he paddled his board with short, sharp strokes. It wasn’t derogatory; it was a nickname bestowed of affection. Ray, in turn, referred to me as Magilla Gorilla. We all seemed to have had nicknames back then. He was one of the original four surfers, including me, to surf what later became known as Rizzi’s Reef, north of Ventura, California. He was tough, a true competitor with a tremendous amount of love and talent for surfing.

As we grow older, we often lose contact with the friends of our youth. Such was the case with Ray and me. We connected several times over the years but both of us had gone in extremely different directions in our adulthood. We did keep in touch but no longer surfed together. However, throughout the years I always had a soft spot and tremendous respect for Ray in my heart and the memories we made together so very many years ago. He was a part of my life a half-century ago and I will always remember him fondly.

Very sadly, this is one more paddle out that I will surely miss. I am far away in Italy from that magnificent Pacific Ocean that calls me so often from afar. There will certainly be other old friends there and I hope in the celebration of Ray’s life among the shadows of the sea my words might be heard: I miss you Ray! Tight curls my friend!

You can read a bit about Ray and the Rising Sons Surf Club here:

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  1. Thanks for sharing the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our time here is short. It is a wonderful thing to celebrate the people we have loved and those who have enriched our lives for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful story. I never learned to surf when I was young enough to possibly have learned. When we lived in San Diego a few years ago, there would be at least one story a month about a paddle out in memory of some famous surfer who had gone to catch that final wave or some surfer who had died in a surfing accident. In Ocean Beach, there is a famous dive bar and restaurant called Hodads. When the owner Mike Hardin was found dead in 2015, all of the Hodad’s restaurants were closed to employees and friends could have a paddle out in his honor.

    Liked by 1 person

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