Rich Salick’s Spirit and Legacy of Hope Lives On, 37th Annual Surf Fest Underway This Weekend
By Space Coast Daily // September 5, 2022
Pro Am Surfing Competition Finals Underway at Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier Competition Area
WATCH: Rich Salick received a kidney transplant in 1974, and although he was told that his surfing days were over, his love for the sport drove him to make a comeback. Perhaps Salick’s greatest work began when his pro surfing days ended. Along with his twin brother Phil, they began organizing small surfing events to benefit those on dialysis. The brothers built the annual NKF Surfing Festival into national prominence, and since its inception 37 years ago, the surf fest has raised millions of dollars for the fight against kidney disease.
RICH SALICK – 2013 INDUCTEE: Member of the Surfing Hall of Fame, Force For Kidney Transplantation, Founder of the NKF Surf Fest
LEADER, FRIEND & ADVOCATE
Rich Salick said, “I thank god every day for what he has given me, and I’m glad that along the way we have had a chance to leave something great.”
Those were the inspirational words spoken by Salick – a true leader, friend and advocate to those fighting kidney disease.
“My inspiration has been learning about and teaching people about kidney disease,” said Salick. “Our legacy will be the marriage between surfing and the medical community to bring awareness and help people with kidney disease.”
Salick grew up next to the smooth glassy waves near Bradenton, Florida, and in his lifetime he created a strong wave that carried millions of people needing a lift stricken by deadly kidney disease.
In 1973 he was a professional surfer on the U.S. and World Surfing teams and his future looked very bright. Suddenly, he lost 35 pounds in two weeks and was diagnosed with kidney disease. He then underwent dialysis for a year and was told that he would never surf again. Salick needed a transplant, and fortunately, he had a very willing donor — his identical twin, Phil.
‘WAXED’ COMPETITION AFTER TRANSPLANT
Salick received a kidney transplant in 1974 and although he was told that his surfing days were over, his love for the sport drove him to make a comeback.
Since his transplanted kidney lay just half an inch beneath the skin in his abdomen, protective gear was necessary. Salick designed a protective pad that fit into his swim trunks, and was competing less than one year following the surgery.
In only his second post-operative competition a month later, he “waxed” the competition, becoming the first professional athlete to make a competitive comeback following a transplant – and his trophy is still on display in the dialysis unit at the University of Florida’s Shands Teaching Hospital. Salick retired from professional surfing after four years, but was the Number 1 ranked surfer on the East Coast in the 24-35 age group in 1980.
HEART & SOUL OF THE NKF
Perhaps Salick’s greatest work began when his pro surfing days ended.
Along with his twin brother Phil, they began organizing small surfing events to benefit those on dialysis. With the encouragement and support of Dr. Craig Tisher, Dean of Medicine at the University of Florida, the brothers built the annual NKF Surfing Festival into national prominence. Since its inception 28 years ago, the surf fest has raised millions of dollars for the fight against kidney disease.
“He represented the heart, soul and spirit of the National Kidney Foundation,” said Stephanie Hutchinson, chief executive officer of the organization’s Orlando-based Florida chapter.
Salick’s faith, family and friends supercharged his drive and his never-say-die attitude, allowing him to continue his life’s work in helping others for years – a seemingly superhuman feat which left most people around him in awe and wonder.
To keep Salick dialysis free, other family members donated their kidneys. His older brother, Channing, donated in 1986, and in 1999 it was his younger brother Wilson. To make matters more difficult, Salick was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and he underwent more surgeries, a year of radiation and months of chemotherapy.
RICH LEGACY & SPIRIT LIVES ON
Through it all, Salick kept his sense of humor and enthusiasm, and continued organizing, fundraising and leading the charge for the National Kidney Foundation.
Salick habitually spoke of his love for his family and of his two sons and often beamed with pride when discussing their prowess.
In January 2000, Salick was honored for his surfing career and contributions to the sport with induction into the Surfing Hall of Fame. In 2008, after many years in Martial Arts, Salick was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Black Belt Hall of Fame, following his son, David, a 9-time grand national karate champion.
With his passing at age 62 on July 2, 2012, the world surfing community lost one of its most courageous sons, but his rich legacy and spirit lives on in the hearts and hopes of millions of people afflicted with kidney disease and in the spirit of people who love surfing world wide.’
FOR INFORMATION about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS