Surf City hosts another saltwater send-off in wake of fallen surfer

surfer sendoff

During the paddle out in remembrance of Hans Loewen, Hans’ classmate Billy McGowan hugs Jennifer Loewen, Hans’ mom, near Surf City Pier on Saturday afternoon.

Maria Sestito/The Daily News
Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 01:07 PM.

When Hans Loewen died after a skateboarding accident, his fellow surfers knew how they’d say goodbye: with a paddle out.

The oceanfront gathering is a practice designed to let surfers send one of their own off on the final wave. 

Surfers solemnly took to the ocean recently near Surf City Pier to honor their fallen friend. Loewen, 20, of Hampstead, recently had been accepted to the Naval Academy and was on leave when he was injured. Before hitting the water, hundreds of friends and relatives gathered on the sand for a few words before the ceremony.

“This was our favorite place to be,” said his sister, Zatha Loewen, as she addressed the crowded beach. “I can’t tell you how many times we came out here and paddled out together, right here at this pier. I’ll always treasure this place in my heart. Hans would have loved to see everyone’s faces today. You’ve made a huge difference in his life.”

Zatha, with a string of yellow flowers in her hair, was joined by almost 70 surfers as she paddled past the breaking waves. The surfers straddled their boards and formed a floating circle in accordance with Hawaiian tradition. People splashed the water with their hands and took turns saying their final goodbyes. Loose carnation flowers then were thrown into the center of the circle.

“It’s a community thing to let the family know how much he meant to us,” said Gary Cadenaugh with the Christian Surfers organization. “It shows how much Hans meant to these people. Unfortunately, we’ve had a little more practice with this than we’d like over the last few years.”

Cadenaugh’s thoughts were echoed by George Howard who runs nearby On Shore Surf Shop.

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