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World-class surfer, crusader Rich Salick dies

By Bonner Joy, Islander publisher

Rich Salick

Rich Salick and friend in May watch from the Manatee Public Beach as friends paddle out to hold a service for his brother, Wilson Shymanski, who died May 8.

Phil Salick, left, and Rich Salick on a 2010 visit to Holmes Beach and sister Joanie Mills to promote the NKF Pro Am Surf Festival. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

The trademark symbol on a coveted Salick Surfboard.

Rich Salick grew up on the smooth, glassy waves of the Manatee Public Beach on Anna Maria Island.

He went on to greatness, induction in 2000 to the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame and founder with twin brother Phil of the National Kidney Foundation Pro Am Surf Festival.

But never you mind his struggles with kidney disease and the gift of life — three kidney transplants — he received from siblings, including the first from Phil.

Never mind his 40-year fight against medical odds and a bout with cancer in recent years.

Never mind all that. He lived life to the fullest, and he did it to see that others with kidney disease could triumph, succeed and live their lives to the fullest.

Rich Salick, 62, died July 2 shortly after surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center. His heart would have no more.

But his legacy as a surfer and as an inspiration to people affected by kidney disease will live on. So many people are influenced by his wake.

Rich was the No. 1 ranked surfer on the East Coast in the 24-35 age group in 1980.

He and Phil started a surfing competition in Cocoa Beach, where they had moved to pursue the perfect wave and a surfing profession. They opened a surf shop, started forming their own brand of boards, and from that was born the world’s largest charitable surfing competition — which draws tens of thousands of spectators to Cocoa Beach on Labor Day weekend. This will be the 27th consecutive year for the tournament that last year raised some $125,000 for the NKF Orlando chapter.

They also opened a highway of surfers trekking from Anna Maria to Cocoa Beach and back to frequent their favorite beaches and learn from the best of the best, and to purchase a coveted Salick surfboard. Their surf shop and board-making enterprise operated from the 1970s-80s.

Salick had received a trio of kidney transplants from his brothers over the course of 38 years. He received transplants from twin Phil in 1974, older brother Channing Salick in 1986 and younger brother Wilson Shymanski in 1999.

“He was the heart and soul of the National Kidney Foundation. He personified who we are and what we do,” Stephanie Hutchinson, chief executive officer of the organization’s Orlando-based Florida chapter told Florida Today on his death.

“He was all about being there for patients — getting them the right care that they needed — and he did that for over 30 years. He would run all over the state in his car, in Jacksonville and Fort Myers, meeting with volunteers,” Hutchinson said.

“I only worked with him the past seven years — but in my life, I have never had the privilege of working with such a great man. And I will miss him every day,” Hutchinson said.

A memorial service was held July 7 in Cocoa Beach with a gathering that followed at the Cocoa Beach Pier.

On July 8, friends and family participated in a paddle out service from the beach at Third Street North, the beach nearest the Salick’s surf shop.

A local celebration of life is to be announced.

Memorial donations may be made by mail to the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, Patient Services Program, 1040 Woodcock Road, Suite 119, Orlando FL 32803 or by calling 800-927-9659.

Salick is survived by his twin, Phil, sister Joanie and husband Tony Mills and their son Brandon of Holmes Beach, brother Rosser Shymanski, son Philip, stepson David Morgan, and ex-wife Michele Brenner Salick.

One Response to World-class surfer, crusader Rich Salick dies

  1. Capt, J.D.Webb Jr. says:

    Great write up Bonner! I think Rich’s Paddle Out was the largest I’ve ever seen!So much Love and Energy ! Conch Horns Blowing ,people Hooting and splashing ! Fitting for FLORIDA’s #1 MAN !

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