Dana Brown had a dream that one day he’d be able to drive the van he lived in on the other side of the country to Huntington Beach to surf.
He managed to make his way here from Florida, but he was defeated by the waves he had long hoped to conquer and died in the process.
Brown, 60, had paddled out on Nov. 6 near the Huntington Beach Pier. As the waves swelled 4 to 6 feet and the sun began to set, Brown was slammed into one of the pier’s pillars.
A video posted online shows a group of surfers swimming to shore with an unconscious Brown. He died in a hospital four days later.
Racheal Katz, a Florida resident, met Brown about four years ago in Cocoa Beach, where Brown had been living in his van with his father, George.
With his long white beard, Dana Brown looked to some like a crazed homeless man, Katz said, but she thought differently and introduced herself.
Katz was struck by the innocence of both Browns, and a friendship formed.
“Dana and his dad were innocent,” she said. “You don’t see innocent people anymore, and you definitely don’t find innocent 60-year-olds.”
Dana Brown was a faithful follower of the Old Testament. Katz said he would never surf on Saturdays, the Sabbath, no matter how perfect the waves were.
Katz said Brown stringently followed his creed, including not cutting his beard, and never judged or spoke ill of anyone.
Katz and Brown had deep conversations about religion. She recalled telling Brown he wouldn’t go to hell if he cut his beard.
“We got to joke like that and he never got mad,” she said.
Brown loved his father and spent a great deal of time caring for him after he became ill from complications of old age, Katz said.
“When his dad got sick, he spent probably every day with him,” she said. “Dana carried him in and out of that van every day. He didn’t want him in any kind of an adult caring facility.”
Brown bathed and fed his father and spent most days reading to him in their van.
When George died in March, Katz said, Brown was heartbroken.
“They had a journey together, him and his dad,” she said. “The death kind of ruined what Dana believed.”
Katz remembers one day when Brown looked up, and with his child-like bearing, said, “I really miss Dad.”
About six months later, Brown left Cocoa Beach on a journey to the Huntington Beach surf spot he had dreamed of.
On the way, Brown stopped in various areas, including Mexico, but Main Street was always on his mind.
Nobody knows whether Brown caught a wave at the pier the day he was fatally injured.
“I hope he caught one great wave,” Katz said. “He died doing what he loved.”
A GoFundMe campaign set up by one of Brown’s friends has gathered more than $3,200 for funeral expenses.
Brown is expected to be buried next to his father in Cocoa Beach on Dec. 3.