10 Breathtaking Surfing Paddle Out Ceremonies

Gathered Here

Gathered Here


While no one quite knows when they began, for decades surfers have been commemorating and celebrating the lives of their own by paddle out ceremonies. During the ceremony, surfers make their way out past the waves into calm water where they form a circle and join hands. Stories are often shared, prayers spoken and ashes can be scattered.

This type of memorial service isn’t just reserved for surfers, and can be arranged for anyone who had a true love for the ocean. Away from any other people, under the open sky, bobbing gently beyond the breakwater, they are a beautiful ceremony that can take your breath away.

For more creative memorial ideas, see our article on unique and meaningful memorial ideas.

1. Eddie Aikau, Waimea Bay – 4 December 2010

Aikau was the first lifeguard in Hawaii and a legendary big wave surfer. During his service as a lifeguard, not a single swimmer lost their life at Waimea Bay. His contributions to society transcended surfing and his legacy is still visible all throughout Hawaii today.

2. Pastor Chuck Smith, Huntington Beach, 21 October 2013

Smith helped to initiate the Harvest Crusade, was in charge of the Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa for nearly 50 years where it grew t over 10,000 faithful.

3. Andy Irons, Hanalei Bay, 14 November 2010

Irons was a professional surfer who won three world titles in his career. He is the only surfer in history to have won a title at every venue in a single ASP calendar year.

4. Ted Smith, WindanSea, 15 January 2012

Considered by many as a surf legend of WindanSea in Western Australia, hundreds of community members paddled out to pay tribute to Smith’s life.

5. Jay Adams, Venice Beach, 30 August 2014

Adams was the youngest member of the legendary Z-Boys skateboarding team whose innovative freestyle skateboarding style, influenced by surfing, inspired and shaped what we now know as modern skateboarding.

6. Ben Carlson, Newport Beach, 6 July 2014

Carlson was a lifeguard at Newport Beach where he passed away, aged 32, in an attempt to save a swimmer. About 2,500 people entered the water and 5,000 more stood on the shores to commemorate his life.

7. Isla Vista Victims Paddle Out, 29 May 2014

Hundreds of students paddle out to honour 6 students who were killed in Elliot Rodger’s mass shooting.

8. Brian Ward, East Atlantic Beach, 25 March 2017

Ward was a local surfing legend of Long Beach, famous for surfing the big hurricane swells.

9. Hobie Alter, Doheny State Beach, 20 April 2014

Alter helped popularise water sports with the invention of the foam surfboard and the “Hobie Cat” sailboat. Aged 80, his last wish was to be commemorated by a traditional paddle out.

10. Toby Flew, One Mile Beach 28 February 2014

When Flew lost his battle with cancer, the One Mile Beach community held a paddle out and surfing event in his honour, raising money for the Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital where he was treated.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work, we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and we celebrate the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.