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Paddle-Outs Honor Ocean-Minded

Memorial paddle-outs are not just to remember surfers—they're also for those who love the sea.

Every culture has its own beliefs or traditions when it comes to death and memorials, and the culture of surfing is no different.

Memorial paddle-outs are a popular way for surfers to honor those who have died.

While many surfers believe that paddle-outs stem from ancient Hawaiian tradition, some historians have reported that ancient Hawaiian burials took place on land.

Others argue sea burials have been around since before recorded history.

It's possible that the paddle-out tradition began in the early 20th century when surf culture became popular.

The "Beach Boys" of Waikiki, who taught tourists how to surf in the early 1900s, may have held the first memorial paddle-out.

The paddle-outs moved to the mainland in the late teens and early 1920s. As the sport of surfing became more popular, so did this way of honoring those who died.

In 1968, a memorial was held in Waikiki for Duke Kahanamoku, arguably one of the most famed surfers in the world. Kahanamoku once said, “My family [ohana] believes we came from the ocean—and that's where we're going back."

Memorial paddle-outs, some of which are held annually, are not exclusive to surfers. Ceremonies have been held for divers, swimmers, photographers, Vietnam veterans and those who loved the sea.

On June 25, a memorial was held in Hermosa Beach for famed surf photographer , who not only loved photographing surfers, but also loved to surf.

During a memorial paddle-out, surfers—sometimes totaling more than a couple hundred—will paddle out beyond the surf break, some with a flower between their teeth or lei around their neck.

Once they paddle beyond the break, they solemnly join hands and form a large circle and take a moment in prayer and silence. Flowers are tossed into the water.

If the person being honored has been cremated, the ashes might be scattered in the ocean.

The memorial is much like many others. There is sadness, an immense sense of loss and tears shed, but there are also light moments when memories bring stories to life and give people a reason to smile.

Surfing is a spiritual experience, and losing someone who shared in that lifestyle leaves a void in the community—this can be seen with the multiple memorial paddle-outs that are sometimes held for the same person across the globe, .

Every culture has its way of honoring and memorializing someone who died. For those who love the sea, paddle-outs are our way.

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