Buzz Sutphin memorial paddle
  • Buzz Sutphin memorial paddle
  • Image by Criselda Yee
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The March 30 memorial for surfing champion Douglas "Buzz" Sutphin at Cardiff State Beach featured his favorite surf song and a paddle out where people on the ocean and those on the shore threw flowers into the water to honor him. Sutphin, who was 17 when he won the nationally acclaimed 1965 Malibu Invitational, died March 24 of complications from cancer.

More than 150 people attended the event on the beach near the Chart House, a restaurant important in Sutphin's professional and personal life. The memorial for the Encinitas resident opened with comments by his widow, Jenny, and daughters Sadie, and Mackenzie. Then Tom Gudauskas eulogized the friend he called the "matador" because of Sutphin's posture on a surfboard, with one arm raised upward and the other stretched out.

Gudauskas used songs to introduce highlights of Sutphins's life from the 1960s on. He played guitar and sang the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." Mackenzie harmonized and played ukulele, and many people sang along.

Sutphin was a surfing hero to then 12-year-old Gudauskas. They met in 1973 in Santa Monica when Gudauskas worked at Chuck's Steak House and saw a man was hammering on a nearby structure. "I'm building this Chart House," Sutphin said.

By the 1980s, Sutphin was a lead manager at the Chart House and opened restaurants throughout California and in the Caribbean. Sutphin met his future wife when she showed up at the Cardiff restaurant for the Chart House management program.

During the early 1980s, El Nino storms caused "the biggest surf. Buzz was great at anticipating" weather conditions, and Gudauskas saw his friend on an 18-wheeler "dropping boulders on the beach."

Gudauskas asked if he had Coastal Commission permission. Sutphin said, "No," and returned with a tractor to position the boulders. "The storm came through and blew out the windows; [but] the structure was saved."

That eulogy ended with Bill Burke's announcement that "people all over the world" knew about Sutphin's death and two New Zealanders would paddle out in his memory. At Cardiff State Beach, some people tucked flowers into the necks of wetsuits and paddled or kayaked beyond the breakers. Once there, they formed a circle, joined hands, and shared memories. After they said, "We love you, Buzz" three times, everyone threw flowers into the ocean. Paddle-out participants then splashed each other to "wash away their grief," said Criselda Yee, Sutphin's sister-in-law.

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