Dick Catri Memorial Paddle-Out and Celebration of Life

June 17, 2017 • News

Story written by Hunter Joslin; captions written by Dick “Mez” Meseroll — Bright and early on June 10th, I’m driving over Sebastian Inlet bridge to attend Dick Catri’s memorial paddle-out and celebration of life, and there is erstwhile photographer Roger Scruggs capturing the extremely vibrant sunrise with an osprey sitting on top of the bridge in the foreground. I knew then it was going to be a great day for a gathering of the East Coast surfing tribe to talk story and commiserate on the passing of Dick Catri. One year ago, we did the same exercise for Mike Tabling, but this time it was for the acclaimed “Godfather” of East Coast surfing and its industry, with a noticeable increase in the number of participants.

The four Catri daughters put together with the help of numerous volunteers a well-organized event site complete with an ample breakfast offering, 250 seats under tents, autograph opportunities on freshly printed T-shirts and posters, and a family area featuring photos covering many years of Dick’s storied life and times. The conversations overheard for more than four hours were all about experiences each one in attendance had with the honoree.  Laughter and tears were mixed throughout the event. 12 speakers took the crowd on a story-filled look at many different periods of Dick’s life. George Robinson brought everyone up to speed on Dick’s most recent life experiences, as he was quite instrumental in helping Dick accept Christianity and to reconcile with his family over the last two years.

Jack “Murph The Surf” Murphy kicked things off with tales about Dick’s formative years as a young surfer from Miami. He vividly painted a picture about the first go-out he and Dick had when they paddled out at Sebastian Inlet. He then proceeded to describe driving across the country to California on the spur of the moment, which brought the crowd to laugh robustly as he told how they ended up driving the entire length of Texas… naked! Jack could tell stories for days on end about he and Dick’s shenanigans over so many years as great friends.

Balsa Bill Yerkes came along next with a great song as he played the ukulele and then told how Dick had changed his life when he was a struggling surf industry sales rep back in the ’60s.  Next came several members of the original surf team that Dick took up the East Coast in the mid ’60s, totally dominating every surf contest they entered. Mimi Munro, Sam Gornto, and Joe Twombly had great memories to share of how Dick coached, trained, and mentored each of them. Then Phil Salick, Doug Deal, Tommy Smith, Ricky Carroll, and Steve Cassanova each shared their stories telling how Dick Catri had been an important part of their life in and around surfing.

Finally, after listening for one and a half hours sweltering in the Florida summer heat, it came time to paddle all the way out to Monster Hole and spread Dick’s ashes with the family. The high point came as a wave washed through the east side of the circle just to let everyone know Dick was present amongst us. The celebration of Dick Catri’s life ended with a gathering on the beach with everyone holding up their surfboards in a final salute to the Godfather of East Coast Surfing.

If you didn’t get to the memorial paddle-out and celebration of life for Dick Catri early, chances are you had quite a hike to get in as cars were parking out on A1A north and south of the bridge and lining the entire length of the entrance road on both sides all the way up to the ticket gate. A big thank you to all the Sebastian Inlet State Park rangers — some of the best you’ll ever meet — and security for all their help, cooperation, and patience in the sweltering heat. Photo: Mez

After two weeks of heavy rain showers and very little surf, this is what greeted the hundreds of attendees Saturday morning as they drove over the Sebastian Inlet bridge to pay their last respects: two- to three-foot waves at Monster Hole, where Catri was the first ever to surf this spooky, sharky rivermouth sandbar, along with bright, sunny skies ’til the paddle-out ended. And as if on cue, the rains returned as the park began to empty. Photo: Mez

The Captain’s Kingdom: Tony Soprano had the Bada Bing, John Gotti the Ravenite Social Club, and “A Bronx Tale’s” Sonny LoSpecchio the Chez Bippi as their smokey-boozy bar type hangouts. But our Godfather had one of the most notorious (and magnificent) locales you could dream of to be the all-time Kingpin and be laid to rest some 60 years after catching his first waves there on the north side with Murph The Surf. Photo: Mez

Surf Dogs circa 2012. Photo: Mez

It was a classic, almost summertime Florida morning for Dick’s celebration, and they came by land and by sea to say goodbye. Photo: Mez

Vero Beach crew. Photo: Dugan

Another beautiful Phil Roberts rendition of Catri. Photo: Mez

(Left) Checking the headlines in the ’60s. Photo: Scruggs; (Right) Hot off the press, Dick’s 2013 ESM feature story with the now-iconic Phil Roberts cover illustration. Photo: Clapper

One World Surfboards Shaper Juan Rodriguez (left) with the legendary Jack “Murph The Surf” Murphy, one of Dick’s earliest partners in surfing adventures when East Coast surfing was still in is wilderness period and adventure meant paddling out to some un-ridden, outer sandbar named “Monster Hole.” Photo: Dugan

View from the bridge. Photo: Mez

One last pic with Dick and the Ricky Carroll shaped paddleboard. Photo: Mez

Event emcee, raconteur par excellence, Indo Board kingpin, and longtime friend of The Captain, Hunter Joslin was the perfect choice to host the send-off for a man of a million stories. Photo: Dugan

Team Catri powerhouses of the ’60s and early ’70s, (left to right) Joe Twombly, Gary Freeman, Mimi Munro, and Sam Gornto. Photo: Dugan

The memorial service and celebration begins. Photo: Mez

Balsa Bill Yerkes opened up the memorial service with some beautiful strumming on the ukulele, injecting a mellow, cruisy, Hawaiian surfing vibe into the celebration, which was a huge part of and influence on Dick Catri’s life. Photo: Scruggs

There were more than a few legends, luminaries, and Hall Of Famers in attendance, including (left to right) Tommy Smith, Hunter Joslin, Doug Deal, Joe Twombly, Kim Catri, George Robinson, and Rich Salick. Photo: Mez

(Left) Dick in his home garage shaping bay in Floridana Beach, Florida, circa 1997. Photo: Mez; (Right) Mimi Munro and Dick at the 1999 Easter Surf Fest at Canaveral Pier. Photo: Mez

Mimi, like most of the guest speakers, gave a moved-to-tears tribute about the man who was a mentor, coach, shaper, sponsor, cheerleader-in-chief, and protector when she was a young lady blazing trails for women’s surfing in the ’60s and ’70s. Photo: Mez

Hunter Joslin reading a heartfelt tribute in absentia from one East Coast titan of surfing, fellow East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer Cecil Lear, to another. Photo: Mez

Kim Catri with her mom Shagg in the background. Photo: Mez

The Captain and his mates (left to right): Fletcher Sharpe, Gary Propper, Mike Tabeling, Freddy Grosskreutz, Dick Catri, and Dickie Munson. Photo: Dugan

Dougie Deal made the pilgrimage from the North Shore of Hawaii to read Dick’s favorite scripture and to pay homage to the man who looked after him when he needed looking after and gave him guidance on the road of life. Photo: Mez

Tommy Smith was not the only one to lose it remembering his good friend of so many decades. Photo: Mez

East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer and one of the surfing world’s most respected shapers, Ricky Carroll told a beautifully spun, circle of life story that evoked both tears and laughter about he and his older brother pitching in to buy their first surfboard together as groms, and then how he finally got enough money to buy his own board which was — you guessed it — a Catri. Photo: Mez

Shagg Catri laughing at yet another classic Catri story that pretty much captures the spirit of the day. Photo: Mez

The daughters Catri (left to right) Kristen, Sheryl, Kerri, and Kim. Photo: Scruggs

Former top East Coast pro from Singer Island Scott McCranels and Inlet legend Bill Hartley with Bill’s prized quiver blade. Photo: Dugan

By day’s end, there was hardly a square inch left to sign your name. Photo: Mez

You don’t need an Oscar when you have a genuine Duke Kahanamoku trophy residing on your mantle place. Photo: Mez

(Left) Flowers and fiberglass. Photo: Dugan; (Right) East Coast surfing pioneer and one of the ESA’s founding members, David Reese. Photo: Dugan

Ricky Carroll with Jim Hannon carrying the board RC fashioned out of a 13-foot Clark Foam “Hawaiian Fish” blank that was used for paddle-out fishing and was the precursor to SUPs. Dick had hauled the beast around forever but never got around to shaping it before it was handed over to Rick by the family after he passed. The R&D team crafted a fitting tribute to the man and launched it on its maiden voyage at his paddle-out. Definitely a highlight of the gathering. Photo: Mez

The man who could tell a whopper of a tale — as well as be the center and subject of one — having fun during an ESM photo shoot for an interview. It was Dick’s idea to put his fishing hook into the boat’s transom and sit back like he was about to land the Big One. The man did have a great sense of humor, that’s for sure. Photo: Mez

Dick interviewing former teamrider Kelly Slater, circa early ’80s. Photo: Scruggs

Paddle-out lineup shot. Photo: Welsh/SurfNRG

Heading out to the Hole one last time to lay Dick to rest. Photo: Nathan Adams

Pelican’s eye view of the paddlers circle and attendant watercraft. Photo: Mez

You know Dick had to have some huge cojones to be the first guy to paddle out and surf Monster Hole, a natural shark breeding and food source habitat. Would you have done it? Photo: Nathan Adams

To paraphrase the classic George Clooney line from “The Perfect Storm,” “Steamin’ now… You’re a goddamn fishing boat captain. Is there anything better than that?” Only to be a surfer/fishing boat captain is about all we can think of. Catri at the helm headed out on a charter from Sebastian Inlet, 2007. Photo: Mez

Surfer ’til the end in body, soul, and mind. Dick charging Hawaii. Photo: Courtesy Catri Family

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  • J B Jeff Buthker

    Fantastic tribute,,,,, very well done……so glad I was there to share,,, R.I.P.