David Reese is Palm Beach, Florida royalty. His great grandfather, Elijah Newton Dimick, was one of the town’s first settlers, and the first mayor to be born there. Dimick also started many Palm Beach businesses, including the Coconut Grove House, the city’s first hotel. Reese’s grandfather, Thomas, was also a Palm Beach mayor. After his brother’s passing, Reese’s immediate family became the last of the Reese’s still living on the barrier island.
For Reese, who was a West Palm Beach realtor, surfing was where he would make his mark. He was one of the area’s first surfers and a co-founder of the Palm Beach Surfing Association, which fought hard to keep open Palm Beach’s surfing beaches, which were constantly under threat from anti-surfing ordinances. Reese made it his mission to ensure that the ordinances failed. He was indeed perfect for the job.
Not only was Reese a great organizer, but he also set a professional example that gave all surfers credibility. The endless hours he spent talking to lawmakers and lawyers ensured that Palm Beach surfers — as well as surfers up and down the East Coast who were facing similar rules — would be guaranteed the right to surf freely without the fear of being arrested. In the end, he was victorious.
In 1967, David was one of the founders of the Eastern Surfing Association and was the very first District Director for ESA Florida’s District 6. Under his leadership, District 6 became the largest in the fledgling ESA. His organizational skills obvious to everyone, Reese soon took over as Competition Director for the ESA, as well as Director of the East Coast Surfing Championships in Cape Hatteras, a position he held for decades.
The doors of Reese’s family home were seemingly always open, and the place became a waypoint for traveling surfers looking for a parking spot to access the phenomenal waves of Reef Road. He was a father figure to many of the Central Florida surfers, in and out of the water, where he can still be found today, happily surfing.
Photos by Tom Dugan / ESM, Dick “Mez” Meseroll /ESM, Tony Arruzza and courtesy the Reese family