Bob Meistrell died on June 16th. Bob – with his brother Bill – created the first commercially viable neoprene wetsuit and launched what is now arguably the last privately-held surf company in the world.
Jacques Cousteau’s innovations on the aqualung allowed ocean explorers to stay longer in the water. But without the wetsuits that Bob and Bill created, sea exploration would still have been limited because of hypothermia and other hazards.
Because of the Meistrell and Cousteau families who still collaborate on projects, mortals such as me now know what lives where “…beyond this point there be dragons…”
Body Glove headquarters and their retail storefront Dive N’ Surf are located a couple of blocks from where the Club used to be. Their people were our people on a night when our music was particularly cool enough. It was always a high standard to reach for and the only standard worthy of Bob.
I first met him when the socially-conscious punk band Ignite played. We were doing a fundraiser for one of the educational charities that was close to Bob’s heart. The next time I saw him during the performance of the epic Dick Dale, creator of the surf guitar style that most know from the soundtrack of Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”. We auctioned off a Strat signed by Dick and a surfboard and skateboard from Bob to help a kid who was fighting leukemia.
Bob was hit by a heart attack while he was in the engine room of the Disappearance, the lead boat for a paddleboard race between Catalina Island and the mainland. The vessel had bizarrely had a double engine failure, the first time ever. Bob, typically, jumped alone into the darkness to fix the problem. Everyone tried to revive him, but no one was successful. By the time the Disappearance was brought back into harbor a couple of hours later with his body, word had spread. Lifeguards, pleasure boats, surfers, and anyone else who had the power to get onto the water had created an informal and spontaneous honor guard. The corridor of grievers ushered Bob into his safe haven for the final time.
Wow…that’s the way to do it. To be cut short in the heat of battle. Even at 84, it seemed like it was too soon.
It is appointed unto man once to die. For me, I want to get the most bang for my buck: Symbolically like Bob, in the engine room of a foundering vessel with all of my skills on display in the crisis. And hopefully, someone will figure out a way to lawfully let me slip intact below the water and become dragon food.
NEXT TIME: The Supremes (court)…
Picture of Bob Meistrell, courtesy of thedailybulletin.com.