Over 300 people paddled out this past Saturday, June 9, at Windansea Beach in La Jolla to honor the passing of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui. Many more looked on from land while the huge group of surfers formed a circle in the water, surrounding a boat from which Kauanui's mother, Cynthia Kauanui, scattered his ashes.
The young surfer died on Memorial Day from injuries sustained in a fight four days earlier at his home in La Jolla.
It was a great vibe on the beach. People from all over were there, people from Hawaii, and even people from the community who just came out to watch because they'd read about it in the paper and didn't know what a paddle out meant.
"For me, the most memorable part of the paddle out was when we got in a circle and everyone was there," said Mike Powers, who helped organize the paddle out.
"Cindy was in the boat and I paddled out to it and got on. I had an intercom so I had everyone hold hands or shoulders and I said a nice prayer. Then Cindy poured out the ashes. There was real unity as everyone was holding hands and gathering around."
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding Kauanui's death, Saturday afternoon's paddle out wasn't a sad experience. "It had a really good vibe there," said Powers. "It was more a celebration of his life than anything else, so it wasn't sad. It was actually pretty neat."
Peter King, a close family friend, shared the sentiment.
"I was out there on a longboard with my son, and there were a lot of people out there. It was a really good love-in. I don't really know how else to describe it," said King. "It was a great vibe on the beach. People from all over were there, people from Hawaii, and even people from the community who just came out to watch because they'd read about it in the paper and didn't know what a paddle out meant. It's such a unique way that surfers remember fellow surfers, so the community really got a glimpse of something that I think they didn't really know about."
According to King, it was a unique experience. There was no hatred expressed towards those responsible for Kauanui's death. Instead, the focus was on his life and honoring a kind young man with a big heart.
Kauanui was known for surfing the left at Windansea and being gracious to others who surfed there. To help keep his memory alive in the community, the break he loved to surf so much is being renamed Emery's Left.
"He loved that little inside left there. He'd catch a ton waves. He was certainly known for it. He's a great little surfer so I think it's a great thing for people to remember that day and to be a landmark to move forward, away from violence," said Powers. "Everyone in La Jolla knows he's a good-hearted kid. I think Emery would be stoked about the way it turned out and the way everyone came together at the end."