Rich Salick*

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Richard Salick was a force in the water, but it was his wins in the philanthropy realm that made him stand out from the surfing pack. He suffered from kidney disease for much of his life and used his platform on the world surfing stage to raise awareness — and funds — for the illness. 

Salick was a revered surfboard shaper and a feared competitor, who shined on the U.S. Surf Team in the 1960s and 70s. In 1973, at the age of 23, he was diagnosed with kidney disease, and his brother Phil generously donated one of his kidneys — the first of three transplants from family members throughout Salick’s lifetime. He continued surfing after his diagnosis, placing second in his first competition following that initial transplant surgery.

The Salick brothers went on to partner with the National Kidney Foundation to establish the Rich Salick Pro-Am Surf Fest, an annual Labor Day weekend event that has raised more than five million dollars for research, patient support, public education and organ donation. For three decades, Salick traveled across his home state of Florida, meeting with volunteers and caregivers to ensure that kidney disease patients got the care they needed. 

Longtime friend and former head judge of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Mike Martin said of Salick, “No surfer ever brought more good will upon our sport. Despite his overwhelming personal health problems, including kidney transplants, he spent more than 30 years dedicating his life to helping others who suffered from his disease.”

Fellow East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame inductee Matt Kechele remembers Salick’s mentor status in Cocoa Beach, where the Salick brothers ran a surf shop. According to Kechele, “The Salicks were the first to believe in me, support me, and encourage me to start doing contests. They were definitely huge role models in my life and their team was pretty amazing back in the day. Rich was just so giving. He was a father figure to so many people around here.”

Rich Salick was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000 and passed away in 2012.  

Photos courtesy Bill Johnson