It was 23 years ago when the family and friends of Brendan Borek organized the first surf memorial on the beach in Avalon, dedicating a day to the boy who always enjoyed the high tides.
Little did they know how the event would grow. Two decades later, the annual surfing competition has grown to become one of the largest amateur surfing events on the East Coast, including live music on the beach and a week full of other related events.
"You know, it's hard to describe," says Lydia Borek, Brendan's mother. "There are multiple feelings. There's a feeling of sadness over why you're doing it and who it's for. He's not here. And there is happiness that he is so fondly remembered."
On Saturday, Aug. 3, friends, family, and a community of supporters will once again come together for the 23nd annual Brendan Borek Surf Memorial, taking place along 30th Street beach in Avalon.
Proceeds from the event go to the Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund - also known as Brendan's Fund - a non-profit dedicated to helping children and young adults with cancer.
In addition to surfing and live entertainment, the day also includes pizza and water ice, T-shirts and other merchandise for sale. A stand-up paddleboarding event will also be included for the first time this year.
"It's still going strong after all these years," Lydia Borek says. "People love it."
Brendan Borek, an avid surfer, was diagnosed with a cancer of the bone known as Ewing's Sarcoma at age 16. He battled the disease for two years before he died in December 1991. The Surf Memorial has been held every summer since.
Two decades later, it is now the biggest fundraiser for Brendan's Fund.
For the second year, Brendan's Fund will partner with the Travis Manion Foundation to welcome Operation Amped, a non-profit that provides wounded and disabled veterans with the opportunity to surf.
Through a grant from the Travis Manion Foundation, wounded veterans and their families will receive travel assistance and hotel accommodations to participate in a special demonstration heat at Saturday's Surf Memorial.
"It was really wonderful," Lydia Borek says of last year's "Heroes Heat" for the wounded veterans. "It's really a tribute to all of them to see their ability on the board. It's amazing."
The annual surfing contest kicks off at 6:30 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. The contest is followed by a homecoming party at Avalon Community Hall from 4 to 8 p.m., where $10 admission includes food and a cash bar.
The Surf Memorial caps off a full week of events benefitting Brendan's Fund, including the Artists & Friends Juried Art Show at the Avalon Yacht Club that was held July 31 (half the proceeds from art sales went to Brendan's Fund), local restaurants donating proceeds on select days and a movie night.
"The thing that most impresses me about it is the people who come out and say what a powerful, emotional day it is for them," Lydia Borek says. "From grandmothers to young kids. I was talking to a young man today who has been helping me with this since he was 6 years old. Now he's a sophomore in college. He just loved it so much. That's such a tribute, to have an event like that."
Other events benefit Brendan's Fund:
Thursday, Aug. 1 - Pancakes at Fishin' Pier Grille, located at 32nd Street and the Boardwalk in Avalon. Proceeds from the day will benefit Brendan's Fund.
Friday, Aug. 2 - Crab Cake Day at Sylvester's Fish Market, located at 21st Street and Fifth Avenue in Avalon. Sylvester's will be serving crab cakes from 11 a.m. until closing. Net proceeds will go to Brendan's Fund.
Saturday, Aug. 3 - Movie Night at Avalon Community Hall, 30th Street and Avalon Avenue, from 7 to 9 p.m. Movie to be announced. Tickets are $5; free for children 6 and under.