Wax On, Wax Off: Chris Hawk Memorial Paddle-out

Categories: Wax On, Wax Off
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by John Gilhooley
Huntington Beach native and surfing legend Chris Hawk passed away at home in San Clemente October 23rd, finally succumbing to oral cancer after a long fight with the disease. Hawk played a key role in creating Huntington Beach's surf culture in the 1960s and 1970s. He won national renown for his surfboard shaping, a skill which he diligently learned alongside greats like Reno Abellira, Davie Abbott and Dick Brewer. Surfers all over California knew his reputation and his boards, and continue to revere his contributions to surf culture today.

On Friday, September 18th, Chris received the Surfers' Hall of Fame Trophy and cemented his hand and foot prints into the sidewalk, leaving his mark at the base of Duke Kahanamoku's statue, along with a host of names as diverse as Bud Llamas, Sean Collins and Bruce Irons.
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by John Gilhooley
Once he had been diagnosed with cancer, Hawk's treatment prevented him from shaping and surfing. But that fate didn't mean the end for him. Along with his induction into the Hall of Fame, his love for the sea and his importance in Orange County's surf culture continued right up until his death. His memory will remain a permanent fixture in surfing.

The paddle-out in remembrance of Chris Hawk was fittingly memorable, and attracted an impressive line-up of VIPs from the surfing world. Surfer and photographer John Gilhooley snapped some poignant shots. Check them out here.

Here's a word on the concept of the "paddle-out" (for those who don't know) from one of our previous articles, after the jump.
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by John Gilhooley
"Water people treat the death of a watersportsman with its own degree of respect and admiration, and we remember and honor the dead with our own set of flexible rituals. One of the most consistent of these holy rites is the "paddle out," a solemn public display in which a bunch of surfers paddle out at a chosen spot and conduct our own memorial service for a member of our unique culture and community.

Sometimes this amounts to huddling closely together on a peak, surfing the departed's favorite waves together and talking casually. Other times, it can be a more serious affair, something akin to a public protest, where the sheer magnitude of paddlers and solemn assembly of human bodies are the focus, almost like a public art performance.

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by John Gilhooley
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Also common are religious incarnations of the paddle-out concept. Some are led by pastors, priests or church leaders who keep their scripture pages dry on their way out past the lineup. People hold hands in a circle. They read things they've written and poetry about nature. They tell surfing stories and jokes about their lost comrades. They surf together.

Commonly, someone will reference the old prayer of pirates and mariners in reverence for the vast oceans they called home: "We commit thee unto the depths, until the day when the sea shall give up its dead." When the tragic 2002 Bali Bombings took the lives of several California surfers, paddle-outs took place in several spots on our coast. At one of them, fifty or so surfers clasped hands in a circle and chanted "terrorists suck" at full volume.

In a sense, whether it's a social, religious, or even political gathering, the "paddle-out" and other rituals are surfers' way of honoring someone on our own terms and in our own language."
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