VIA – FLORIDA TODAY
John A. Torres: Paddle-out honors a legendary surfer, promoter
Craig Rubadoux, FLORIDA TODAY
Hundreds of surfers held a paddle-out on Sunday to honor the memory of Rich Salick, champion surfer and advocate for the National Kidney Foundation. Salick endured kidney disease, cancer and heart disease since the 1970s. He died July 2 at age 62 after emergency surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
COCOA BEACH— Kids played in the surf.Their younger siblings complained a few feet away from the heat. Tents and umbrellas dotted the sand in between the hordes of towels set up to claim a piece of valuable oceanfront real estate.The sun was directly above and the only clouds were way down in the distance, the place where you strained your eyes to see where the ocean kisses the sky.It was a typical July Sunday in Cocoa Beach, except for the hundreds of surfers holding hands in a gigantic paddle-out circle a few hundred yards from shore, the blowing of a conch shell and the cheers as a bi-plane zoomed overhead again and again.
That’s how Cocoa Beach said goodbye to one of its own Sunday.That’s how they honored a legend.More than 500 people arrived at the beach close to six in the evening to pay tribute, reminisce, and say goodbye to Rich Salick, champion surfer, contest promoter, black belt, Christian, friend to many, humanitarian and advocate for the National Kidney Foundation.It was a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much, suffered greatly and by all accounts never complained of his fate. Salick endured kidney disease, cancer and heart disease since the 1970s. He died July 2 at age 62 after emergency surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center.Perhaps no greater measure of love for this man was the fact that three different people over the years thought so much of him that they donated one of their kidneys to prolong his life.
But Sunday was about more than love. It was about remembering, honoring him even by those — who like me — were never fortunate enough to meet him.
“I’m here to pay him respect, to make sure he hears us, to make sure he knows that he is in our hearts and our prayers,” said Cocoa Beach resident Yumi Ishizuka, not old enough to remember having seen Salick shred the waves in his day. “I never met him but hey, everyone knows Rich.”
Those who came out to pay homage included the pregnant, the worn and weathered, the tattooed and the clean cut, men, women, those on bicycle with surfboards under their arms, those who arrived on skateboards, and those arriving in SUVs. They had long boards, shorts boards, stand-up paddle boards.
They ran eagerly into the water, even those whose best years had clearly passed them by, and there they were, no matter their age, kids again playing in the surf.
“He would have loved to see the rows and rows of surfers going out there,” said Kim Weisner of Merritt Island, whose late husband was a kidney transplant recipient.
George Robinson of Melbourne was one of the first to leave the water after the paddle-out.
“You meet so many people in this life but it’s so rare to meet an individual like him,” Robinson said. “He was just a wonderful man. I miss him.”
Doug Smith of Melbourne went a step further, calling Salick a real American hero.
“He was the kind of guy who was always there to help others,” Smith said, adding that…
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