Jimmy was at the inspirational core of South Bay surfing. He was a great surfer with a powerful stroke, love of the tube, and total fluidity on the waves. When he paddled into the lineup at El Porto, Puerto Escondido, or Spot X beautiful action would follow always accompanied by good vibes. He was a teacher, lifeguard, a dreamer, a traveler, a friend, and a worldwide ambassador of fun times and good surf.
It all started on the beach one summer when he turned seven. As Jimmy later wrote in one of his many columns for the Beach Reporter:
“There was great shorepound, as there always used to be, at Fourth Street in Manhattan. I rode my new Boogie Board. It was an evening that may have set the course for the rest of my life. As I waited outside the bodysurfers for a wave that broke a little further out, a glassy left loomed in. I turned, kicked and started down the face. As soon as I was at the bottom the wave barreled. I was totally inside for the first time in my life, and without even trying, I saw water all around me. In front of me was a blue hole, with light entering in a perfectly round opening. Time slowed down, and I heard a light Whoooo as the wave’s energy pushed wind out from behind me. Two, maybe three seconds later, I was out of the tube with my mouth agape. It took me a moment to realize what had happened because, at 7 years old, no one had told me that a tube ride was the ultimate feat in riding a wave.”
Jimmy created a philosophy of genuine, soulful love of the oceans and the waves that he shared with everyone. In 1998 he turned his dream into reality by forming his own surf company, Pure Surfing Experience. He taught surfing to young and old alike, produced popular local contests, and organized CampSurf to run summer day camps for the City of Manhattan Beach and week-long away camps at awesome spots like Jalama.
He developed a style of teaching that he passed on to students and fellow instructors showing the easy flow of motion from catching the wave to springing up to stand on the board. The secret to the unique experience of learning to surf with Jimmy was unbridled enthusiasm and fun combined with respect for the water and the environment. Inherent in his philosophy and mission was the belief that safely enjoying the ocean is good for all of us, physically and mentally.
Jimmy was also an adventurer, traveling most of the globe in search of great waves, wonderful people and new friendships. From Tahiti to Fiji to Bali and Australia, into the Caribbean and throughout most of Latin and South America, and onto Europe and South Africa, Jimmy spread the word of the pure experience of surfing. His adventures, and his philosophy of surfing, became the subject of regular columns in the Beach Reporter.
Jimmy was a graduate of Mira Costa High School (1987) where he played volleyball and surfed everyday. He received his BA degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991, where he organized the Cal Surf Club. Jimmy was the first to set up a study and surfing semester abroad in San Sebastian, Spain. After he showed the way, a tidal wave of Berkeley students and Manhattan Beach residents followed his path to “San Saby,” including his brother Jeffrey.
Jimmy served as a L.A. County Lifeguard for fifteen years, most of those years on the beach in Manhattan Beach working with the children he loved so much in the Junior Lifeguard Program. One of the great joys of his life was taking young hands in his and guiding them into the water for the first time, and keeping them safe while showing them the adventure.
Jimmy is survived by long time residents of Manhattan Beach, his mom and dad Nancy and Jim Miller, and his brother Jeff, Jeff’s wife Alissa, and a world of loving and caring friends. The surf will continue to roll in, kids will continue to learn to surf, 7 year olds will still get their first barrel, young adults will travel and adventure but surfing will never again experience as pure a heart as Jimmy Miller.
In the last few months of his life in the summer of 2004, Jimmy suffered from a severe mental illness that led to his death. Also during the same time, he injured his shoulder and for the first time since his grommet days he was unable to surf and teach. His brother Jeffrey and his friends and Pure Surfing colleagues carried on CampSurf.
His family and friends strongly believe that his sudden inability to surf and enjoy the ocean contributed to his death. We are dedicated to creating and providing activities and programs to help others with mental and emotional illness benefit regularly from the therapeutic and healing powers of the ocean.
For most of his thirty-five years on this earth, Jimmy Miller was “Living the Dream.” Now, through the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, we are dedicated to keeping one of his most important dreams alive–helping others learn to love, heal and feel joy from the power of the ocean and the power of loving friends.