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Surfer With a 'Positive Vibe' Is Remembered

The body of car-bomb victim Steven Webster is still in the Indonesian island of Bali; his injured friend is back in Orange County.

October 16, 2002|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

A day after his death was confirmed half a world away, Steven "Webbie" Webster was mourned Tuesday by friends who called him a happy-go-lucky surfer, fisherman and golfer who shared his positive spirit with them.

Webster was killed last weekend in a car-bomb attack in Bali; he had gone to the Indonesian island on a surfing trip with friends to celebrate his birthday.

One companion, William Steven "Crabbie" Cabler, arrived home weak and sick early Tuesday. Friends and family took him to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, where he was admitted with a broken shoulder, third-degree burns and an injured eardrum.

The two men were at the Sari Club in Bali on Saturday night when a car bomb detonated, killing nearly 200 people. A bar across the street, the Paddy Club, was also hit. Both are frequented by surfers from around the world.

Cabler, 42, of Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach residents Webster, 41, and friend John Parodi Jr., 42, went to Bali to surf. Parodi, who was not in the bar at the time of the explosion, spent days looking for Webster in hospitals and morgues. He identified Webster's body late Monday night.

Family members are sending dental records to Bali to reconfirm his identity before the body can be returned home.

Word quickly spread Tuesday through the Balboa Peninsula neighborhood where Webster had an office. His family kept a vigil at his Huntington Beach home, where a sign outside read "High Surf for Steve Webster."

Friend Todd Garrison was among those who helped set up a makeshift memorial to Webster outside his office; it includes photographs of Webster, a tall, tan Californian with wheat-colored hair.

He is shown the way neighbors said they will remember him: surfing the waves in Newport and holding up big prize fish. There are surfboards pressed against the office window and T-shirts on hangers that read "Terrorists Don't Surf."

Webster and his wife, Mona, along with son Dylan and stepdaughter Samantha, were fixtures on the shore.

Webster, co-owner of the engineering firm S&S Commercial Environmental Inc., spent his lunchtimes surfing, and Mona could be seen running or working out on the beach, friends said.

"We would surf at least four times a week. We are a tightknit community here, and we will miss him terribly," Garrison said. "All he did was give out a positive vibe, including advice that really helped people."

Nick Johnson, 17, looked up to Webster, who had taught him surf etiquette when he began surfing at age 8. He saw Webster the day before he left for Bali with the new Town & Country surfboard he had bought for the trip.

"He was so stoked about going," the younger surfer said. But other friends said they had been worried about the possibility of terrorist violence in Indonesia.

"It was not a good time to be leaving," said Mike Sarcoz, Cabler's roommate. "We all knew it. [Cabler] knew it."

Garrison said those fears were overshadowed by the trio's excitement about the waves off Bali.

"We were concerned about them going over there, but just before I left, I said, 'Have a great time. I'll see you when you get home.' "

Sarcoz, Cabler and another roommate share an apartment around the corner from Webster's office. It is a bachelor pad with racks for surfboards and an aging pool table in the living room. A 24-year-old cat ambles about. Outside, there is a continuous parade of wetsuit-clad young men headed to or from the surf.

Cabler arrived home early Tuesday. Stepbrother Joseph Speigel said that Cabler had gone to Bali several times, as well as to other famed surfing spots, including ones in Mexico and Costa Rica.

Cabler had left for Indonesia about three weeks ago, spending time on a boat near Sumatra before meeting up with Webster.

Cabler said he and Webster were in the back of the crowded bar, celebrating Webster's birthday, about 11 p.m. when they heard a blast at the Paddy Club.

"Before I could say anything, our building blew up.... I saw the roof collapse on him. I looked and saw young girls burning. I saw people burning," Cabler said.

He said he realized that he was trapped in the bar, so "I pounded my shoulder eight to 10 times" against a metal wall and "popped my way out."

"I ran down the street. I thought I was going to be picked off," he continued.

Two people in a passing car picked him up and took him to a clinic, but it was full, so they got him a hotel room.

Webster's family is planning a tribute to him at 10 a.m. Saturday at 52nd Street and Seashore Drive in Newport Beach, said family friend Trent Walker.

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