About one hundred people gathered before the water and under the sun to remember Joe Rocco, who died windsurfing Hurricane Irene last Sunday. For 45 minutes we all talked with each other, sharing stories, speculating on what could have happened to Joe, how it could have happened to any of us.
Then Marianne took the microphone, standing next to a photo of Joe, a pair of his skis, and his beloved Dill board, and began talking. She spoke of how she and Joe met, their life together, and matter-of-factly about what happened last Sunday. Straight up: Joe must have hit some floating debris and then smashed into it hard, face first, knocking him out instantly. “Conditions weren’t too much for Joe. No way,” she said. And she thought a helmet would have made no difference at all.
Then others came up to speak. They included:
People who had met their spouses through Joe
Friends whose children had been taught to windsurf by Joe
New Long Islanders who were given their first gear by Joe
People who worked out with Joe
People who wanted to hang with Joe
Family of Joe
People who learned to laugh at themselves from Joe.
Then Marianne invited everyone who brought gear to do what Joe would want them to do: windsurf. The consensus was that in heaven Joe was on his 4.7, but at Joe’s Beach it was more of a six meter day. George Pav was first on the water. I walked through the parking lot to leave…I hadn’t brought my gear, but I felt the need to sail. After getting to my stuff and driving around for an hour looking for some breeze, I ended up launching at the site of my very first windsurfing experience, sailing with an old friend down the beach from the original Puffin House on the Little Peconic. There are people and places we are thankful for, and it helped me close the day.
(In the coming days there will be information about a memorial fund to be set up in Joe Rocco's name. If you are looking for more information on what happened to Joe, you can find it in the Long Island windsurfing bulletin board, and in blog posts here, here, and here.)