Craig Hughes goes surfing for the last time

AIMIE CRONIN
Last updated 13:48 21/07/2013
Craig Hughes
Ben Curran/Fairfax NZ

'A COOL LIFE': Mourners were asked to bring their favourite Hughes board along.

Craig Hughes
Fairfax NZ
GONE SURFING: Craig Hughes founded the Raglan Surf Co.

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Craig Hughes connected surfers to the waves.

He made magic boards for 44 years and he died last Sunday at home in Ragan with a rainbow shining through the window and wind hurling at the sea.

Soon after his death, a message was sent out to the surfing community: bring your Hughesy surfboard to the funeral if you have one. And don't wear black.

He wanted a celebration of his 58 years and that's what he got.

About four hundred people arrived at the Raglan School hall on Saturday to celebrate the legendary life, the boards and the laughs. Surfers dressed like surfers, the rest wore something colourful.

Boards of every colour lined every inch of the walls.

There were photos dotted round the entranceway. People leaned in to look. Photos following Hughes through decades of wave catching; holding his boards, holding his wife Liz, holding his babies. And always the long hair. They said he never could shake the hippy days.

One man said out loud to no-one in particular, "He was a fun dude, man. He just had such a cool life."

The ashes were carried in on top of a surfboard - one of the first Hughes ever made.

And for the next three hours, friends and family said goodbye. Tears and laughter.

They talked about his deep pirate voice, his mischief eyes, his one-word answers, his missing tooth and complete lack of vanity.

He was, they said, a bit of a grump sometimes. That put some people off.

But friends and family knew better and they spoke of a different man. A man passionate about community surfing and the environment and board making and art. A man who commanded respect in the water, who earned his spot. They consoled themselves they would always find him there.

"The water will always keep him alive in our hearts."

He loved the surf, yes, but there was no doubt Craig Hughes was a family man.

Son Luke was last to speak. He listed things his dad had taught him and the things he learned. About his craft, "he did it to see people on top of his boards with a smile on their faces."

And about love.  As Craig Hughes was nearing the end of an eight-year battle with cancer, his wife of almost 30 years was the constant at his side. She left no question unanswered, said Luke, no option unconsidered.

"She never gave up hope."

Hughes died six days before his wife's birthday. The kids asked her what she wanted and she answered straight away, "I want to remember your dad."

So as she turned another year older, she also said goodbye.  She told her friends and family after hearing them speak that she was glad they knew the real Craig Hughes.

"I will rest easier knowing his goodness did shine through.

"We have cried hot tears of grief and cried some more and our tears became warm and somehow wetter...

"This is it guys ... be thankful he was here."

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At the back of the order of service, two words: gone surfing... and a picture of a hippie-haired man, board in hand, running to the water.

 

aimie.cronin@waikatotimes.co.nz

Twitter @aimocronin 

- Waikato

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