… like it or not, there is a worldwide community of people who understand that beyond the ‘that was fun’ level of casual wave riding, there is something more, something deeper. There are deeper levels, not merely in performance, but of connection to the energy of the ocean. It is not necessarily spiritual, but it is a respectful of the ocean, and appreciative of the gifts received. That surf community- in particular the northwest surfers who roam the coast and the Strait, and occasionally, the larger world- we, us… we have just lost another real surfer in a tragic, cowardly, criminal way.
Update- December 15- A suspect has been arrested. He has, according to the “Seattle Times,” admitted to driving a Ford pickup that, allegedly crashed into a fence and struck Omar.
This won’t bring closure. Nothing really does. It may not bring justice. It has been easy to believe that no one would be held to account. Though the circumstances under which the suspect was identified are still unknown, the news is somewhat gratifying. Still, the loss to family, loved ones, the surfing and greater community is incalculable.
Every rideable wave is a gift. We remember the best ones long after they are gone.
Omar will be remembered.
Information is still hard to come by, but what began as a missing persons report turned into a hit and run. Fatal. Hitting a pedestrian may or may not be an accident. Leaving the scene is not. Omar was near his home in some part of what to me is all, whether it’s Burien or Bellevue, one big and confusing city. Seattle/Tacomapolis. He was out for an afternoon walk. Bear in mind that four pm is pretty much twilight. Omar didn’t come home. Missing person.
Evidently Ian, formerly of Urban Surf, posted the missing person report on ‘media.’ According to the call I had with Adam, after I missed a call around six-thirty pm the next evening/night, Reggie saw the post and responded with, “Is this a joke?” Not a joke.
The posting was deleted. I was, not at all ironically, in traffic headed home from completing a small project in Tacoma (last exit before I-5, go straight until it dead ends, turn right, third building to the right), trying to hear Adam over the (still) rush hour traffic, all the other drivers hellbent to get somewhere and me just trying to not get into an exit only lane. And Adam was subdued. “So, man, it’s just like…” He was saying ‘man’ a lot. “So, Omar… yeah I know Omar. Just, just… what happened? Is he… it’s something bad, isn’t it?” “Well, man… Yeah.”
The call dropped with me on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I pulled off at Port Orchard exit to get some gas. The light at the end of the offramp was green. I could have just gone. I was turning right. There was a woman walking across the road in front of me, two backpacks on, headphones, a cell phone in her hand. It isn’t like this was a town; it was another freeway exit with two gas stations, two fast food places. Again, that a car/pedestrian accident could have happened is in no way ironic; it is coincidental. I was thinking about Omar.
I heard about Omar, probably, before I met him, most certainly from Reggie. And I have seen Omar many times over the last several years. If surfers have varying levels of competitiveness in the water, if surfers break into tribes seemingly without provocation; whether forced by fickle waves or by choice, when hanging out in parking areas with other surfers, it is actually kind of hard to not be a little more than just polite or civil. Given enough time, we might just become, perhaps, decent to people who are looking for the same thrills and sensations you or I are. And, if that person is genuinely nice and obviously decent, it should be impossible to rationalize being a dickhead. Should be.
The last time I saw Omar was such a situation. He was parked next to me. I had surfed, but was not ready to leave. It could get better. It might. I pointed at Omar’s car. “No racks,” I said.
Omar pointed, then got out. There were several boards on the rocks in front of his car. “They fit inside,” he said, reaching back into his dedicated surf rig for a wetsuit. The waves might get better. They will go away.
I’m considering if I should include what Omar and I talked about for ten minutes or so. Since I am often accused of not having a filter, of not being able to not talk about what is on my mind at any given moment, I will. A little. White people. Yeah. Maybe it is because I had just received the DNA results back from the 23 and Me thing and I am not what I claim to be. None of us are. If you say something negative about Black People or Jewish people or Native Americans, I might just say that I’m part Black or Jewish or Native American; just to see how you respond.
Omar responded calmly and politely to my rant. If it seems to you that I brought up a subject obviously race-related out of white guilt or bring it up now as some sort of virtue signaling, no; it is what Omar and I discussed, and even if I choose to delete two paragraphs here, our discussion will remain in my memory. Again, I was ranting, Omar as someone wise enough to be calm.
Still, at this moment, half a day after the missing person was found, with questions unavoidably filling in the places where there are no facts, no reports, no answers; it all goes very scarily negative.
So I will remember that when I said that blue eyes are a mutation, and that people who trusted those with blue eyes did so at their peril, Omar looked at me. We both laughed. Omar asked, “You going back out?” “No. Maybe I’ll… watch. Rip it up!”
The loss of Omar is, after the recent loss of Gabe by drowning, another tough blow for the de facto northwest surf community. Prayers and best wishes, never even nearly enough, to Jasmine and the rest of Omar’s family. As far as justice… justice… now I’m thinking about justice.
My regrets, sympathies, sadness for the man now gone. drew