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Dick Catri Celebration of Life

Story By John Knoke Photos by Bryan Davis

After days of steady rains and a week of generally lousy weather, Saturday June 10, 2017, started out beautifully. The sun was out, the winds had turned offshore, the notorious inlet No-see-ums were miraculously absent early and a fresh, small, NE swell was rolling through-super rare for June. Hundreds of people gathered on the south side of the Sebastian Inlet State Park to pay their respects to Dick Catri, the local legend who by many accounts was the reason we were surfing at Sebastian Inlet at all. Paddle outs are very common for surfers around the world but one this large is rarely seen! What looked like a parking lot of surfboards of all shapes, sizes and makes was formed. The turnout was truly impressive. The park rangers were already talking about having to close the park at 9 a.m. due to the massive outpouring of respect and love for the Catris. To the Rangers’ credit, concessions were made for entry fees, nipping dogs and the usually strict parking rules were clearly bent to accommodate everyone wanting to be a part of such a special ceremony. Vehicles were parked out to and along the road and in every available space.

People from all walks of life were there, but clearly it was a gathering of those who love and utilize the ocean for their pleasure and therapy. Surfers! Naming all of the notable surfers present would be absolutely impossible. There can be no doubt that Dick was loved and respected by many. With the astronomically high tide rushing in under the bridge and boats anchored in the inlet behind, Murph the Surf, George Robinson, Phil Salick, the Catri Girls, and many others all spoke about Catri to a large group.  One notable story told by Murphy was about a trip he and Dick had taken where, at one point, they had driven across the whole state of Texas naked. The stories were generally G rated but certainly many others were told on the sidelines that had more “teeth.” Catri was undoubtedly a fascinating character and the crowd positively represented all the different “hats” he wore. Fisherman, beautiful women, surfers, hippies, dogs, dealers, shapers, artists, survivors and friends galore were all in attendance. Many that had not seen each other for decades were reunited this day. Even the pungent smell of the rare  “Sebastian Inlet Skunk” fittingly permeated the air a few times.

After the breakfast and ceremony, the paddle out began. Hundreds of people from all walks of life and even a dog made the long paddle out to the Monster Hole line-up to honor Catri as he had requested. A bit of confusion about where he wanted to be placed was eventually worked out, and the circle was formed just inside the main, outside reef. People that did not paddle out gathered on the beach, the bridge, and the South jetty. A small fleet of boats and pwcs patrolled the perimeter while multiple drones flew back and forth buzzing above the ocean circle and crowd while covering the event. It was epic and Dick would have been proud and likely also irritated!
It took a while due to the huge number of participants and Ricky Carroll with his boat sized, Dick Catri tribute paddleboard to get out there, but with the circle formed, and everyone in place, it was time to send the “old man” back to the sea. Right when Dick’s daughters were preparing to fulfill their father’s wishes, a freak wave rolled in right through the circle! Everyone seemed to know who that was, cheering and splashing in exhalation. What a day at Sebastian Inlet! Rip Dick Catri.
 


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