Dead Surfers Memorial
Santa Cruz, California
The Pacific coast near Santa Cruz is known for its great surfing. There are spots forgiving enough for beginners, and dangerous stretches recommended for experts only. But surf conditions, accidents and bad luck exact a fatal toll.
Along West Cliff Drive there's a famous surfing spot known as Steamer Lane. An informal memorial up on the cliff remembers surfers who have died -- it's next to a staircase leading down to the beach. The wooden plaques are all custom, hand-routed tributes by friends or family.
"RIP CARL," "Pat and Skye, In our hearts and minds," and "Good Ol Bubs RIP" are typical carved messages, lacking biographical details (because they are well-known locals?). There are flower arrangements and small keepsakes along the fence. Someone left a shrink wrapped block of Cabot's Cheddar Cheese as an offering of some sort.
It reminds us a bit of highway fatality memorials, but not really. Those impromptu descansos always seem sad, marking the impact point for sudden unexpected deaths on some lonely road, lives of the victims randomly cut short. But surfer deaths are different. They were doing what they loved, and knew the risks.
And there's something eternally awesome about having your name carved into a board nailed to the overlook of your favorite surfing spot -- even if it did kill you.