A sendoff for Haole Boy

by Amy Brown

In an afternoon full of smiles, tears and flowered leis, a bouquet of colorful surfboards forms a ring beyond the breaking waves—a vibrant, floating tribute to a four-legged native son of Ventura at his favorite surf spot. Haole’s Memorial Paddle Out was held at The Cove, near the pier in Ventura, and was attended by a crowd of socially distancing-cognizant celebrants of the surfing dog phenomenon’s life, love and legacy.

Haole Boy had been wowing crowds since 2013, when he climbed on his owner John Murphy’s surfboard at Mondos and started surfing with virtually no instruction. A star was born, and the talented yellow Labrador’s skills drew attention right away. He went on to work with A Walk On Water (AWOW) program, helping teach kids with developmental disabilities to surf and be comfortable on the waves. He soon became the poster child for canine surfing stoke in surf competitions and events from California to New Jersey.

His ‘mom and dad,’ Kim and John lost him to his long battle with cancer on May 13th of this year, and wanted to create an event to allow his many fans a chance to pay their respects to him. “We brought one of his actual surfboards, and asked everyone to either sign it or write a special message,” said Kim, who paddled out at the event with Haole’s brother Primo on her board.  “Guests were given flowers to offer to the ocean, and those who chose not to paddle out gathered on the beach to witness it, honoring him from there.”

Haole’s fans span the world, in fact, a number of them flew or drove long distances to attend the memorial. Tammy and John Norton, who own three Labs—one yellow, one chocolate, one black—travelled from Surprise, Arizona to participate in Haole’s sendoff. “We came because he was such an inspiration to all of us,” said Tammy, who connected with Haole and his family through Haole’s Instagram account. “He made me want to do better in life, as a mom, and as a person.”

Others came because they had first-hand experience with his special brand of surf therapy. Colleen Fairbanks is a teacher and has participated in AWOW events with her students for five years, and her family drove to the event from Canyon Country. “I’ve never seen a dog more docile, what he did with kids was absolutely magic—he was just a calming soul.” She shared that three of her students had the opportunity to actually surf with Haole. “It’s like he knew what they needed, when they saw him get out on the waves, then the kids were willing to try it themselves. So we are just here today to honor him, John and Kim.”

Haole’s family is continuing his legacy, with a brand attributed to him, Haoleboylife.com, which offers surf lifestyle merchandise for humans and canines alike, and will donate a portion of its proceeds to AWOW, as well as the Brodie Fund, a non-profit based out of NJ, that provides grants to families that can’t provide treatment for pets with cancer. “We hope to continue to give back and be a part of other animals receiving the care that they need,” Kim shared. “The best gift of all is the gift of time. After his diagnosis we got 21 months with him.”

Kim shared what she said in the middle of the ring of surfboards in the water, overcome with emotion and barely able to get the words out, “It overwhelmed me to see so many people in that ring of love out in the water, knowing that our sweet Haole Boy touched the heart of each and every one of them.  John, Primo and I are so very grateful.”

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