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Friends Salute Surfer Killed in Bali

About 250 turn out for a Newport Beach ceremony honoring Steven Webster, who was killed in the Oct. 12 bombing in Indonesia.

October 20, 2002|Vivian LeTran | Times Staff Writer

When Brian Webster paddled into the waves breaking off Newport Beach on Saturday, he felt sure his beloved older brother Steven was alongside him, as he'd always been since childhood.

"I felt his presence -- I felt my brother's spirit here," said Webster, 40, as he joined 250 fellow surfers who turned out to pay tribute to their comrade, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Indonesia. "We loved the water ever since we were kids."

Steven Webster was killed Oct. 12 in a car-bomb attack at a nightclub on the island of Bali in Indonesia, where he'd gone on a surfing trip with friends to celebrate his 41st birthday.

"I spent the last moments of Webbie's life with him, and he didn't suffer; he was happy until that moment," said friend William Steven "Crabbie" Cabler.

Cabler and Webster were at the Sari Club when the bomb exploded, killing nearly 200 people. The bar was frequented by surfers from around the world.

Cabler sat in a wheelchair for the memorial on an overcast Saturday on the sandy shore wearing eyeshades and long-sleeved flannel shirt, watching the flotilla of long boards and short boards dotting the waves.

"From this moment on, this should not be a time of mourning, but a celebration of life," said Cabler, who suffered a broken shoulder, an injured eardrum and third-degree burns in the explosion. His hands were still wrapped in white gauze bandages.

Sobs rang out amid the crashing waves as about 350 friends, family members and onlookers gathered for an emotional, hourlong ceremony accompanied by live music, singing, poetry, laughs and "Webbie" surf tales.

"Paddle outs" are surfers' traditional way of mourning the loss of a fellow rider. And so it was Saturday that the surfers -- looking like a school of porpoises in their wetsuits, fins and leis -- swam off the 52nd Street jetty, known among friends as "Webster's Hole," one of Steve Webster's favorite spots.

They paddled in pairs, then formed an outer circle and an inner circle around a surfing pastor. Bobbing in the waves, the band of surfers began chanting "Webbie, Webbie" and waving thumb and pinkie fingers to the sky. "It's a Hawaiian thing" that means "Hang loose," the surfers explained.

After a 20-minute ceremony, the circles of surfers drifted together. A plane towed a banner that read "Webster's Boys!"

Close friend Kelly Walker recited a poem she helped write: "Cross over to the other shore, surf, in peace, forevermore.... Go now Steven, find the light. We'll miss you, our friend."

Webster's tearful stepdaughter Samantha, who stood beside her mother and Webster's son Dylan, told the crowd, "If there's one thing you can do for my dad, I just want you all to smile at least once today in his memory."

His friends also hope to create a memorial at the 52nd Street jetty, where they also hope to scatter his ashes.

Webster, a waiter at the Rusty Pelican, was so affable that he was nicknamed "Insta-Bro." The friends became lifelong companions with whom he would golf, surf, fish and share his day's catch. They said he weaved tall and small tales with the same ease he threaded the waves.

"Steve was a guy we could always rely on to tell us how unreal the surf was the day we didn't check the waves ... and how he even surprised himself when he pulled off that move on that one wave," wrote Lisa Coutts from Honolulu in a letter read to the crowd.

Other mourners offered words of anger and hope.

"We're saddened by this senseless act," said friend Felipe Bascope, reading from a prepared speech.

"Yeah, from the surf to his hole-in-ones on the golf course, he could talk a mean story, that's for sure. ... Bro, I can see you now, in the best tube of your life, with a smile on your face and the wind at your feet."

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