SURFERS WANTED: 100+ Respond to Grieving Mother’s Request
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9JfhQAyLGg /] By Wendy Osher
A mother’s wish was granted when more than 100 people showed up at Hoʻokipa Beach Park on Maui today to paddle out in honor of her late son. Lisa Erben flew to Maui from Germany, with the hopes of fulfilling her son Johannes’ dream to “feel the spirit of Maui and its waves.” What she experienced, was nothing short of magical.
***Video Credit: Shane Perry and Alohilohi Media.
“We were shocked. It was just such an exciting, beautiful moment,” said Ken Cadigan, a minister at the Temple of Peace Maui in Haʻikū. “We told her this is as important for us as it is for you.”
In a chance meeting, Cadigan said Lisa stopped by the temple to ask for directions three days ago. The two got to talking, and he learned that Erben had lost her son Johannes in a tragic snowboarding accident in Switzerland last year.
Before he died, “it was his greatest dream and wish to come here to Hoʻokipa Beach for surfing, to feel the spirit from Maui and it’s waves,” Erben said in a handwritten note that she posted at the beach pavilion.
Cadigan, who helped to organize the gathering along with others including Maui lifeguard Kaleo Amadeo, suggested that posters be made to carry out her son’s wishes for a paddle-out on Maui’s north shore. Within 48 hours, the handwritten plea entitled “Surfers Wanted” went viral with world renown surfer Kelly Slater commenting on an Instagram image of the letter in which he tagged the Maui surf community.
“It was cool to see something so good come out of social media,” said Maui surfer Matt Meola. “Usually a lot of it is to make money or promote yourself… but this was just a really good showing of the true aloha spirit.”
“It was a really special thing and probably made the mom feel really good,” Meola told Maui Now. He was among the list of surfing pros on Maui that answered the call, the list of which also included Ian Walsh, Tyler Larronde and Dave Kalama.
Six months before his death, Johannes’ mom said her son watched a movie with his best friend about surfers from Hawaiʻi. “In this movie there was a celebration shown for a surfer who died in the waves. Some surfers made a circle, sang, clapped with hands on the water, gave flowers… dropped ashes in the water and gave it to the wind,” Erben wrote.
It was Johannes wish that, “If I must die one day, it must be the greatest if someone will do this with my ashes,” Erben wrote on the poster. Decorated with happy faces, and signed with a heart, the request read, “If I touched your heart and you have time to do this, I invite you to come… Wednesday morning 8 a.m.”
As day broke over the water on Maui’s north shore, a rainbow appeared and a whale was seen breaching in the distance.
“Johannes mother stood in awe as more and more people showed up, lining up to give her hugs,” said Nancy Meola who was among those who attended the gathering. “It was truly amazing.”
Erben told Maui Now that she thought no more than five or six surfers would come, if not, she said, her plans were to go to the cliffs and spread her son’s ashes on her own.
“He always told his friends: we all have not too much time here on earth,” said Erben. In December 2014, Johannes traveled to Switzerland where he worked in a resort near Eiger Nodwand in Grindelwald. “His plan was to work to make money to go to Maui for surfing,” Erben said of her son, noting that “surfing was his great love.”
“He died on a great blue-sky sunny day,” said Erben who described her son as a “spiritual young man.” She recalled a birthday text message in which her son wrote, “mum, I love you so much. I am so pround and happy that you are the woman I came from. I love you endlessly because you respect me and my live, and let me fly.”
With flowers and ti leaves in hand, surfers took Johannes’ mom to the center of the paddle-out where she scattered her son’s ashes away in the wind.
“This day is so emotional for me,” Erben said. “The people who came this morning cannot imagine what a big present they gave to me. Love, love, love to ALL… I feel happy and my heart is peaceful and warm,” she said.