Individuals who paddle out on a board and skillfully ride ocean waves are engaging in the challenging sport of surfing. Society refers to them as “surfers” — and indeed, while plying their talents against nature’s wind-driven swells, they are surfers.
But notwithstanding the stereotypical “surfer” image — a well-tanned male or female with long hair (totally at home in a wetsuit), who drives an old VW van with a peace symbol in the back window — there’s almost always more to the story.
Truth be told, most “surfers” are also bankers, lawyers, homemakers, Realtors, contractors, nurses, teachers, waiters, bakers, reporters or others, who happen to love leaving dry land and interacting with those salty surges.
Brian Anthony Warfield was a singer-songwriter and self-employed entrepreneur who also happened to passionately love riding waves. Sadly, he passed away in November 2016 at age 58.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Tribune
When surfers depart this life, a time-honored tradition kicks in called a “paddle-out.” There have been at least six paddle-outs over the past year in Cambria and at San Simeon Cove.
He had to be near the water and the sun.
Karen Warfield, on her late husband, Brian Anthony Warfield
Fellow wave-riders paddle out and form a circle to celebrate the person’s life. The memorializing ceremony for Brian took place at Moonstone Beach on April 22.
A strong contingent of cousins, parents, an uncle, grandparents, other relatives, immediate family members and many friends gathered to pay tribute to Brian. Ten surfers paddled out beyond the familiar outcropping and formed a circle.
Brian’s wife, Karen, had placed her beloved husband’s ashes in a small basket; she covered the basket with a large banana leaf and put flat stones on top. Brian’s surfing nephew Tim carried the basket out on his board.
Once Brian’s ashes were committed to the ocean, a few words were spoken, the surfers each splashed hands in the water, and then waited for worthy waves to transport them back to shore.
Brian and Karen lived in Cambria for four years; they moved into their most recent home on Wilton Drive on July 18, 2016. Two months later, “almost to the day,” he was diagnosed with leukemia, Karen recounted in a June interview on her front porch. He died six weeks later.
Love of surfing
Growing up in Thousand Oaks, Brian began surfing as a third-grader. His stepdad took him surfing at Rincon and other Santa Barbara/Ventura County sites. Later, he moved to San Diego and continued to hone his proficiency as a surfer.
Karen and Brian had been friends in Thousand Oaks as high school students, and never had a “steady relationship” at that time, albeit Karen said they were attracted to each other.
“It was so intense we didn’t understand it at that time. He had a chip on his shoulder, but he was very popular and charismatic.”
He didn’t necessarily surf every day. Sometimes he just threw himself in the water.
After Brian moved to San Diego, the two had no contact until some 30 years later. During that time, Karen had been through a 27-year marriage, “had two great kids” and eventually that relationship ended in divorce.
Brian, meanwhile, was living and surfing the single life (including in Santa Cruz), and by sheer coincidence, Karen got back in touch with him when his sister-in-law (a longtime friend of Karen’s) notified Karen that Brian was on Facebook.
She didn’t recognize his photo at first — his face was sheltered behind a full beard, and he had very long hair. They reconnected, and not long afterward, in 2010, they moved in together; they married in 2012.
Except for a short stint in Arizona, Brian lived his whole life near the ocean. “He had to be near the water and the sun.”
He also spent considerable time (thanks to Visas) in Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, writing his music, performing, and, of course, with the exception of Ireland and Germany, surfing often.
Brian’s visits to southern Australia and New Zealand’s South Island were mainly about surfing. He, of course, played his music at clubs, and wrote his songs, which was extremely important to him.
But because he had a trust fund (from his grandparents) of about $1,000 a month (which doubled in value because of the exchange rates in those countries), he could afford to live what Karen calls “a charmed life that not everybody understands.”
After settling in Cambria — where the couple spent the last seven years of Brian’s life together — he went to the ocean “almost every day. He didn’t necessarily surf every day. Sometimes he just threw himself in the water. He believed that salt water helped him reset his clock. That was his way.”
His favorite surfing spots included Moonstone Beach, Little Pico, and Cayucos. For Brian, being near the ocean was, as Karen reports, “a form of meditation. He would sit by the ocean and write in his journal. He wrote in a journal almost daily for over 30 years, and he saved them all.”
On the back of one of Brian’s CDs, “Anthony’s Dragon Like Socrates,” he penned this line:
“The spirit within / dwells in captivity / until we release it. Yet, to release it / we must embrace and endure its light / in which no shadow / or secret deception / can reside.”