Steven Webster Remembered
On October 15, I wrote a short piece for the New York Times on the three American victims of the Bali bombing. One of them, of course, was Steven Webster. Webster lived in Huntington Beach, worked in Newport and was a mainstay in the lineup at 56th Street. Webster was a friend to a great many people, including Surfer publisher Kevin Meehan.
To find a little more about Webster, I phoned the home of his best friend Trent Walker. Who should pick up the phone but longtime former Jim Hogan, who surfed the world tour from 1981 to 1990. Turns out Hogan had been a longtime friend of "Webbie" too.
In the interest of telling you a little more about the guy than my short article was able to, I figured I’d put the interviews with both Jim Hogan and Trent Walker online.
The Jim Hogan Interview.
Chris Dixon: Jim, I suppose you’ve been to the Sari Club before.
Jim Hogan: It’s amazing. I’ve been to Bali four times and I’ve sat in that same club with Rabbit Bartholomew, Tom Carroll and a number of other pro surfers. These things can just happen anytime.
CD. Sam George called this bombing an attack against surfing.
JH: Yeah, Kuta beach in general, I’d say 90 percent of their tourism is surfing.
We would always stay in Kuta and take the combi down to Padang Padang or Uluwatu or go outward from there.
CD: When’s the last time you were there?
JH: 6 years ago. I know it’s grown up a lot since then.
CD: Tell me a little bit out Stephen Webster
JH: Well, I’m 39. I’ve known him 22 or 23 years. Trent Walker has been my best friend since we were little kids — 2 or 3 years old. Walker and Webbie were roommates, and that’s how I met Webbie way back then.
Trent still shares an office space with Webster down on 56th st. Down where they always were roommates, and the house is still right across the street from the beach. In between work, a bunch of boards were always there, and you could always stop in, grab a one and go out for a surf. Ever since I was 17, I’d come to his house to hang out with him. The place was just a great hangout.
There’s a whole group of guys up here that Webbie was really tight with. Trent Walker and John Parodi, who is still in Bali and a really tight knit crew of guys who would always go golfing, fishing or surfing together.
Steve liked to live his life and have fun. He worked really hard, was totally dedicated to his family and would always look for a surfing adventure. They would take off once a year for a surf trip. Hawaii, Bali, wherever. That’s basically who Webster was, and you know, you could never really go out in the water at 56th street without seeing him if the waves were good. It’s been that way for 22 years.
CD: What did you think when you heard the news of the bombing?
JH: It’s a nightmare. A nightmare that came true. And you know, there are a whole lot of Australian surfers who are missing as well. I wouldn’t doubt if I know one or two of them. That’s the kind of place the Sari Club and Kuta Beach is. Six years ago, while on a trip, we ran into Tom Carroll, Richard Cram and Rabbit. Of course, we all had once been on the tour together and the next thing you know we’re hanging out at this club on the other side of the world.
CD : Do you think Webster thought he was taking any undue risks?
JH: No way. He was planning on going there and getting some reallly good surf, celebrating his birthday and having a good time. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
John Parodi and Steve Cabler who were over there traveling with him. They’re going to have a lot of healing to do mentally. It’s just crazy.
CD: What are you guys doing now for a memorial?
JH: We’re trying to put some stuff together for the funeral–a scrapbook from friends with pictures and quotes from his life. We’ll probably paddle out at 52nd street for a big memorial on Saturday.
CD: This one really hit close to home in a lot of ways.
JH: You know, surfers are usually braver than anyone, and they’ll go to exotic places like Indonesia, South Africa or other places where there are problems, but usually of course, it doesn’t turn out like this.
Trent Walker, was the best man at Stephen Webster’s wedding, and Webbie was the best man at Walker’s recent marriage too. They were lifelong friends.
Chris Dixon: Trent, tell me about your relationship with Stephen.
Trent Walker: We were best men at each other’s weddings. We met as waiters at the Rusty Pelican years ago and there are still a number of us who remain friends after all these years. Steve and I just matured into a best friend situation.
CD: Where have you traveled with him?
Tahiti, Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica — quite a few spots. He was a guy who lived life to the fullest. He set his whole situation up so that he could surf, fish and golf whenever it was called for.
CD: What made him a friend of so many?
He had a huge circle of frineds. His nickname was "instabro". Because he’s everyone’s bro. I remember we went to Tahiti, and we were not in the hotel five minutes before he was riding down the street on one of the local’s bikes and already bro’s with everybody. A total character. Everybody between 52nd and 56th knew him.
He was one of those guys — if you needed to count on for something, he was there. If he came upon a traffic accident, he would be the first to stop and help. If he was on that plane that was supposed to hit the White House, he would have been one of the guys who would have taken the terrorists with him.
I remember one night when we were roommates, he was coming home from work late at night and a car had flipped on the road and there was no one at the scene yet. He jumped out and pulled the guy from the wreckage and held the guy by the neck until the paramedics got there. Most people would have driven right by.
And you know, he wasn’t short on words about himself, but everybody knew that he had such a big heart they’d just kind of chuckle and say "Yeah, right Steve, we saw you in that barrel. The whole beach was on its feet giving you a standing ovation."
All the while, he’d be saying, "Did you see me? Did you see me?"
He was a very good surfer, a very good fisherman and a good golfer who carried a 6 handicap. He was prolific and passionate about everything he did. He got into making a salad, he got into eating a steak, I mean he got into the grade of the pepper grinded on his food.
CD: What about his family?
He was emotional and a free spirit, but he really cared. His wife Mona had a daughter from a previous marriage who he loved. And Dylan, his six year old son, was prematurely born after 28 weeks because part of the amniotic sac was wrapped around his foot and was cutting off the circulation — if they hadn’t pulled him out, he might have lost his foot. He was pulled out C-section and Webbie always said, "well the reason he came out so soon was because he wanted to be a surfer not a kneeboarder."
As it stands right now, Trent Walker and friends are planning a 10 AM paddle out memorial at 52nd Street in Newport Beach on Saturday the 19th. They’ve also put up a memorial and a scrapbook for you to sign at the 56th street house.
To contribute to the trust fund to benefit Steve’s children, make checks payable to the Trent Walker, c/o Steven B. Webster Family
Mail checks to:
PO Box 15967
Newport Beach, CA 92659-5967
This trust was set up by Steve’s close friends Trent Walker and Mike Hefner.