A great hope during a time of great tragedy:

Danny Estes, Ventura county. photo: Steve Reyes

This was my friend Danny…

 

Danny walked into the factory/ showroom one day many years ago. He was a young 20-something with a red brown sunburn, wild locks and roving eyes. He stormed through the front door like a Texas bull in a china closet. He stomped in, snorted and said to me, “Nice place you got here. I like the look of these boards. My names Danny and I just moved here. I was sponsored by Nectar, but I’m needing some boards now. I’m friends with BamBam and Carlos and Steve over at Olas…you know those guys?” I replied, “Yeah I know those guys. Then I said, “Do you know so and so and so and so?” Danny responded kinda under his breath, “Yeah I know those squirrels.” I remember thinking to myself: God, you say nothing in life happens by accident so why is this character in here right now? It seemed right to go for a surf, so I said, “Hey man let’s go surf. I got some boards you can ride.” Danny stepped outside and says, “Ok lemme make a couple calls and have me a cowboy killer…gimme five minutes…”


That day started a friendship based not on our personality similarities, but on our love for surfing.

 

For the next several years we would load the truck full of prototypes and drive up and down the coast chasing waves and trying all kinds of different shapes. Danny won a bunch of local events during that time. He loved surfing in the contest series my friend Pascal put on. He made quite a stir at the Coldwater Classic in Santa Cruz making heat after heat after heat as an underdog darkhorse. He finaled in a QS alongside Cory Lopez in Florida…he was brash and stirred the pot, but he was never polarizing; everybody loved Danny for the character he was. Because deep down Danny was a kind-hearted golden-souled friend to so many. His bull-riding, cowboy attitude exterior melted away with gut-wrenching laughter when you were in his presence listening to his stories. Danny introduced me to so many good people. People I probably would’ve never met on my own, and people I am grateful to know today.

On one occasion, we took his friend Dean’s little boat across the channel one day during a small craft advisory.

He full throttled it through the mess until the hull cracked and we took on water, but somehow someway we still scored epic waves and made it home alive.

We laughed, rejoiced and felt the camaraderie that war buddies share having survived against all odds. So many times this would be the theme of Danny’s adventures.


And when his life began to take on more drastic extremes… the valleys in between the hills seemed to grow longer and deeper. We had some hard talks during that time. But some good talks; some real talks. We lost touch over time, but I would hear stories and rumors over the next few years of where Danny was now. I prayed for Danny because whether you think that’s weird or not, I believe prayer changes things.

Danny and I had our last conversation about two months ago. It had been years. He told me all about the dips and turns his life had taken. He spoke of jail time and the reality of life choices. We spoke about the good ‘ol days tracking down waves and trying boards.

And he told me about a newfound faith he had. How he had moved in with his grandma and was working to bring his families’ generational old spicy bbq sauce to market.

He had just surfed after a long long hiatus. He was happy. He was hopeful. He was humbled and soberminded. Real about his real struggles, but battling for what’s true and most important in life – family and the love found therein.

 

A tragedy took my friends life this week. And it makes me so sad. Yet in the midst of it all, I remember the last conversation we had. He told me how excited he was to share how he had made his peace with God. So even in death I do believe with all my heart that Danny is in a far better place now. Not just a figure of speech during hard times, but for real. I do believe Danny is in heaven. Laughing and telling stories; happy and feeling right at home in a very real place.

I’m looking forward to seeing you again one day dear friend.

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