Video: Paddle out memorializes “Steve the Dream”

By on October 28, 2010

A crowd of 150 to 200 people gathered at the 2nd Street beach access in Kill Devil Hills Thursday for a memorial “paddle out” in honor of Steve Thomas.

Thomas, a local icon who performed under the name “Steve the Dream” as a DJ and most recently portrayed the pirate “Pamlico Jack” for the Nags Head restaurant of the same name, lost his life in a surfing accident Sunday.

Thomas, 62, fell off his board at 2nd Street. Fellow surfers brought him to shore, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

For those unfamiliar with a paddle-out, it is a memorial service given by surfers when one of their own passes away.

Pamlico Jack's photo | HamptonRoads.com

The typical service includes a gathering of friends along the beach, where words are spoken in eulogy to the departed. Surfers then take single flowers, leis and bouquets into the ocean, where they form a circle, say a few more words, and toss their flowers into the center of the gathering
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Similar to wakes, paddle-outs are generally celebrations of life, where people laugh, joke and tell stories about the person being honored. Surfers are part of a close-knit group, and they realize their sport includes a certain element of danger. I have attended several of these during my coastal life, and I always leave the ceremony with a feeling of happiness instead of grief.

The accompanying video is long, but we hope it conveys to those who missed the ceremony, as well as those who have never witnessed a paddle-out, a sense of the surfing custom as well as a sense of how many friends Steve Thomas had made during his Outer Banks journey

The video begins with a scan of the crowd. Flowers are made available for the attendees and you will be able to see attendees picking their flowers for the ceremony. For those who do not surf, the flowers are usually tossed into the water at the ocean’s edge.

So many surfers attended, two paddle-outs were required. The first group moved north of the access. Next, a crowd gathered as Steve’ son, Jason Thomas, gave a short eulogy and prayer in honor of his father.

A second group, consisting of close friends and immediate family then paddled out with their flowers and are depicted in the middle portion of the video. Note the celebratory tone of Jason and those gathered.

A bagpiper then played “Amazing Grace” as the second group deposited their flowers and gave a final cheer from their circle in the ocean.

As the gathering departed, a make-shift memorial was constructed at the entrance to the access, with many attendees adding items as they departed.

Later in the day, an overflow crowd attended a memorial service at St. Andrew’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Nags Head. The service was followed by a gathering at Pamlico Jack’s restaurant.

link to Steve Thomas’ obituary »

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