Jimmy's LegacyOur Inspiration
On August 7, 2020, sixteen years will have passed since Jimmy Miller took his life and forever changed the lives of those who knew and loved him. A generation of new surfers wear navy blue hats, with his image, compete in the JIMMY Family Surf Fiesta every October, or take lessons at Camp Surf in Manhattan Beach, CA. Thousands of participants, volunteers, donors, sponsors and friends have taken part in an Ocean Therapy Session, attended a fundraiser such as the BeneFiesta or the Surf N Turf at the Manhattan Beach Pier. You may have heard his name mentioned at the Catalina Paddle, where athletes paddle 32 miles from Catalina to the Manhattan Beach Pier, and where the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation had the first relay team ever, comprised of participants of Marines from JMMF Ocean Therapy team at Camp Pendleton, CA.
Your children may have joined the Jimmy Miller clubs at Mira Costa or Redondo High School. You and your child may have helped the many service clubs such as Amigos Unidos, National Charity League or Sandpipers, who donate their time, skills and enthusiasm to help ensure our events run smoothly and our participants are supported in the water and out. Today, there are researchers and scientists who have studied the model of the JMMF Ocean Therapy program and have continued to help grow our unique concept through emerging science and international cooperation. This is the legacy of Jimmy Miller and the foundation in his name.
The single most important and meaningful thing that the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation has done in the past sixteen years is to have saved countless lives. Through our therapeutic surf program in Jimmy’s name, we have been privileged to hear how a day of surfing has saved many Marines from suicide, how the lessons learned on and off the board have given a depressed child a positive experience to draw upon when life gets tough, and has given Vets from Viet Nam a positive experience as they desperately seek help for their decades of neglect. Learn More
We could not save Jimmy, but by sharing his life and passion with the world, we have been able to save unknown numbers of men, women, teens and children by sharing Jimmy’s love of the Ocean though surfing and the life and culture that gave him such joy.
Jimmy was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and briefly lived on the east coast. The family moved to Manhattan Beach in 1976 and have lived in the South Bay for more than 40 years. He attended La Marina, Pacific and Robinson elementary schools (as the family moved closer to the beach) and Center Middle School. Jimmy was a graduate of Mira Costa High School (1987) where he played volleyball and surfed every day. He was a four-year scholar/athlete and an honor student. He received his BA degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991, where he organized the first ever 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 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 adventures and lessons of the Ocean. He also competed and was on winning Lifeguard Taplin teams for both Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. As a waterman, he competed in the 32-mile Catalina Classic, finishing in the top 10 in his class.
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.
Early on, a good friend suggested that he shorten the name of his company so it would be easy to find on this “new thing.”…the internet! And Camp Surf was born! He also grabbed Camp Skate and Camp Yoga and Camp Volley, in hopes that he could combine those sports with surfing under one banner. (And that dream also came true a few years later).
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. Jimmy gave hundreds of local kids their first jobs as junior surf instructors and camp counselors. He spent hours sharing his philosophy and the method he developed for teaching surfing and life lessons.
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.
Untold number of people he met on his travels, ended up on the family couches and at the dinner table. He was always “open” for his friends from near and far.
The Legacy in Jimmy’s words
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 shore-pound, 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.”
The surf will continue to roll in, kids will continue to learn to surf, Seven-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.