23 May, 2016 23 May, 2016

A heartfelt tribute to Dave Fish

The South African surfing community is in mourning after South African surfing champion and surfing legend, Dave Fish (65) passed away last week.

Many heartfelt tributes from fellow surfers and friends have been paid to the former Surfing South Africa Board member, former Border Surfriders President, multiple provincial and national champion, National Masters Team Member and South African Team Manager.

A true surfer in every sense of the word, Dave played a role in South African surfing at club, provincial and national level as an athlete, administrator, coach, official and mentor to a host of surfers. Although he retired to Seal Point a few years ago Dave remained an East London surfer to the end and only represented his beloved Border Surfriders at National Championships since he first surfed competitively some 50 years ago.


This story originally appeared in the Daily Dispatch, written by good friend of Dave Fish – Dave MacGregor.

SURFERS from around the world paid tribute to a South African surfing legend called “the Minister of Fun” by having a massive paddle out in his honour – followed by a party.

In what many have called the biggest surfer paddle out South Africa has ever seen, more than 200 men, women and children hit the waves at Seal Point on Saturday afternoon to remember East London’s Dave Fish.

The well loved and respected 65 year old died hours after a surf at Seal Point, days before the start of the South African Masters championship where he was due to defend his over 60s title this week.

The championships were dedicated in his honour and Buffalo City team mates had  T-shirts specially printed saying “Live like Fishman” to honour a Border surfing pioneer who had been involved for over 40 years.

Watched by hundreds of people on the beach and car park, the surfers held hands and flowers in a massive circle while long time Border surfer Nick Pike said a final prayer for Fish.

Surfers aged from six to 86 suited up and paddled out to honour Fish, some for the first time in years.

After Pike finished, Fish’s surfboard shaper and son, Simon, who paddled out with wreaths made of flowers, plants and driftwood, put them in the water before the surfers threw their flowers into the circle.

They shouted out “Dave” three times and splashed the water wildly before paddling in.

Instead of mourning the death of Fish, friends and family celebrated his life at a moving memorial service shortly afterwards.

They told inspiring and often amusing stories of his passion for life, his love of surfing and his adored wife Judy, son Simon and daughter Amber.

They also spoke of his commitment to conservation, pioneering Transkei surf exploration, adventures around the world, his love of music and the many good times he had along he way. Which earned him the nickname “the Minister of Fun.”

Artist wife Judy said the family had been overwhelmed by the love and respect they had received from around the world following his death of a heart attack.

“His heart would have burst to witness this.”

She joked she knew from the beginning when they married in 1979 that she would always be “the second wife” to surfing.

“His passion knew no bounds, I never tried to divorce the first wife.

“He had tunnel vision, any suggestion of a weekend to Hogsback left him with a frown and incredulous look of “what are we going to do there?””

The couple however travelled all over the world to surf as Dave chased the waves.

His son Simon delivered a loving and moving tribute to his father that had many wiping away the tears and also laughing at he great memories he left.

He said his father grew up in East London and got hooked on surfing from a young age at Orient Beach.

Over the years he loyally served Border surfing was involved with the Surfers Marathon, was on the board of Surfing South Africa and involved in several business ventures that allowed him to surf Nahoon Reef and other favourite breaks as much as he could.

“Having kids didn’t seem to get in the way of his surfing, as he devised a clever way to keep us entertained while he caught a few waves,” Simon explained.

“He would lock me in the car, put the windows down, hand me an old cassette tape and I would sit and pull out the whole tape while he surfed.”

He said his father, who was his best friend too, was known to be an open and honest person who was an inspiration to many.

“Dad, it was a privilege and an honour to be your son, I was fortunate to spend a 35 year adventure with you,” he explained to applause from the crowd.

The memorial service then turned into a late night party to celebrate the life of “the Minister of Fun” and the impact he had on many people around the world.


Friends and family come together to celebrate the life of Dave Fish ©Grant Beck


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