March 19th, 2016 was a sad day. Cameron Munro, a 21-year-old surfer from Brighton, UK, drowned while surfing in Bali. He was enjoying his winter holidays traveling and surfing before planning his return this summer back to his second home of Lagos, Portugal.
Cam was one of those guys everybody loved, and I mean everybody. No one had a bad word to say about him and he never had a bad word to say about anyone else. He was a little shy, mellow, handsome and peaceful lad that just got on with things. And he really loved to surf. He was not afraid of adventure and he certainly wasn’t afraid of a party either. He had a way of making you laugh all the time, even without realizing it. And when you were with him you simply felt good about the world around you, and yourself as well. His best friend, Robert Douglas, says “He was an adventurous and open minded guy; venturing to remote parts of the world in search of perfect surf breaks, meeting new people and just genuinely making the most of every situation. Cam was the definition of a ‘life lived to the full,’ packing more into his 21 years of living than most people would in a lifetime, making him an inspiration to so many people. His amazing smile lit up any room and his selflessness and laid back approach to life was admired by everyone he met all over the world. Cam was caring, brave and extremely talented but remained humble and was one of the best friends you could ever ask for.”
I think it’s fair to say some mystery still surrounds the events that led to his death. First hand reports from surfers who were on the scene when Cam drowned, and attempted to resuscitate him both in the water and on the beach, say that there was no blood, lacerations, or obvious damage to either Cameron’s body, his surfboard or leash. We are thankful to those individuals who acted, unfortunately in vain, on that fateful day to save our friend. Memories like that stay with you forever.
News of the tragedy spread quickly by telephone, news and social media. UK newspapers such as The Guardian covered the story. And the news was spread here as well, shared with the global surfing community. I hope it inspires people to be like Cam in their own lives: humble, genuine and inspirational. Huge outpourings of grief were written across the internet and upon his personal Facebook profile. His friends from Lagos met up in the Algarve Surf Camp to weep, share stories, look back though photos, drink a beer and eventually to laugh and smile as they fondly remembered and tried to come to terms with the loss of their dear Cameron. I know how hard it was that day. I was one of those friends.
But, in the wake of such sadness incredibly special and wonderful events have been occurring. First, the funeral brought many of his friends from across the globe all together in one place, including his family. Our thoughts are still with them at this difficult time.
Second, a group paddle out was arranged by Shaun ‘Haddock’ Edwards and Cliff Cox, long time Brighton surfers who watched Cam grow up and helped teach him to surf. There was an incredible turnout where more than 80 people played their part and his ashes were scattered into the ocean within the circle of people. It was a moving tribute to a young surfer taken from us way too soon.
And thirdly, but I doubt lastly, “The Commute For Cam” took off. In fact, it’s still happening now. It’s been organized and led by the legend that is Cameron’s best friend, Robert Douglas, with whom Cam shared many a trip. They did everything from venturing to Morocco after college for five weeks without much money, living local and eating local produce, to many 5am wake ups in search of sloppy Brighton waves. The Commute is also made up of five more amazing human beings whom I call “The Commuters:” Kieran Munro (Cam’s brother), Louie Gosling, Bex Cederwall, Guro Midtmageli and Andrew Marchuet. So what’s this idea behind honoring our late friend? Well, Rob’s idea was to get a group of people together to make the trek that Cam would make every year from Brighton to Lagos, Portugal. He spent the last handful of summers working in the Algarve and this was his annual commute to work. Rob suggested they cycle the 2,500 kilometres as a tribute to Cam’s adventurous lifestyle and try to raise some money in doing so. He tells me in a message whilst somewhere on the French Eurovelo Mediterranean Cycle route “I was drunk when I came up with the idea, but look for far we’ve come now!”
They all talk openly and fondly about their motivation for completing The Commute. He was “A very special friend who was always there when you needed anything. To do this in Cameron’s name is an honor. We are riding for a good cause and most of all for Cameron. He was always there for people. I’m gonna miss him so much every day for the rest of my life, we all are,” says Guro. Not to mention, “He gave the best hugs!”
The group have already battled leg pains, loose brakes, cold nights, heartache, hills, sweating, swearing, storms, frozen water bottles and broken bicycle wheels. Which resulted in a kind of two and a half hour, 15 kilometre, in the rain, front-wheelie-ride-downhill slash running-alongside-uphill with others carrying various bike parts, load and panniers thing. Moreover, they all mention the camaraderie between the group and remain unfaltering in their endeavour. They feel like Cam is with them and that he would have loved this almighty adventure. “I thought France was flat? Who ever said that needs a slap!” Jokes Rob in an earlier conversation.
“And even though there has been some tough days we know there’s going to be the amazing days like today where we got passed the hills and have found perfect French countryside. Currently sat on top of the valley watching the sunset with a few beers,” Louie regales. And that’s just how Cam would have done it too.
Louie further commented on the bravery of Kieran in cycling to Paris at a time that “He obviously wants to be with his family but he absolutely smashed it, if I was in his shoes I wouldn’t have had the balls and energy that he has.”
Perhaps one of the most powerful metaphors from the trip comes in the form of Andrew Marchuet who decided, after speaking with friends, to join the commute in spite of never even meeting Cam himself. Truly inspired. Truly inspirational. Truly Cam.
The fundraising effort will all benefit Sadhana Forest Kenya. About the charitable journey done in Cam’s memory, Rob writes, “As this journey commences we are hoping friends will donate to the online donation box in Cameron’s name, giving people he loved across the world a chance to do something positive to remember the truly incredible person Cam was. The charity we have in mind is Sadhana Forest Kenya, a non-profit organization that aims to introduce sustainable methods of living to people in the driest and most arid parts of the world such as Samburu County, Kenya. There, they work alongside the Samburu tribe, educating them to make use of their land that is dubbed arid and infertile. They focus on providing clean water to the local community, training people in appropriate tree planting and tree care techniques and planting indigenous food producing, drought resistant trees around people’s homesteads. This increases the tribe’s ability to live sustainably in their environment.”
Rob goes on to add “A lot of people might question a non-surf based charity. But knowing Cam it would have brought him joy that his friends could join together and bring someone else pleasure and clean water. Sadhana Forest is organic. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The biodegradable tin.”
Recently the intrepid cyclists crossed the Spanish border to Barcelona and were having a well earned drink (possibly sangria?) after pounding through 250km in just two days. They tell me that even though every day is a ”roller coaster of emotion” spirits are still high, having recently passed the halfway mark or their trip. They say they have bonded over the experience and ultimately that they ride for love. Let us be inspired by this group of amazing human beings. Let’s take Cams cruisey, care-free, joyful attitude with us where ever we go and embrace his ideology. As Bex beautifully said “Cam lived a less is more kind of life style, not stressing the small things and appreciating the true beauty of life. He never complained and made the best out of every situation. He was such a go getter nothing ever bothered him as long as he had good mates around and surf near. It was never about possessions or anything materialistic. It was only about doing things that made him smile and catching perfect waves.” And that’s what we will remember about him.
Cam, my dear friend, my brother – you inspired us all every day to be a better person. Kinder, more thoughtful, and to act with great humility. We shared great adventures searching for waves and good times always. I wish there could have been more. You went so hard but you were yet so mellow and we miss you little brother. But I’ll see you in the next life. Until then, save me a space in the lineup in the clouds. I want to join you again for a shred, spread your stoke and see that incredible backhand slash of yours just a few more times.