Surfers, fishers, and extended family and friends arrived by the hundreds to a paddle out on February 16 from the Santa Barbara Harbor sandspit to celebrate the life of Chris Brown, 48, who drowned on January 19 on the rocky shoreline near Hendry’s Beach after accidentally falling from the bluff at Douglas Family Preserve. A commercial fisherman and former professional surfer who competed at the highest level worldwide, Brown — known as a humble guy with a big smile — was praised for his endearing aloha spirit and the way he treated everybody like a best friend. His family scattered his ashes amid a wide circle of surfers and flowers.
That morning before the paddle out, a standing-room-only crowd packed Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara as Brown was eulogized by family and friends, including 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater, who remembered staying with the Brown family during contest trips to California. Brown eventually turned away from the competitive spotlight to pursue big-wave riding while working as a commercial urchin diver.