Catri, Dick


Swashbuckling surfer-organizer-board manufacturer from Miami Beach, Florida; sometimes described as "the godfather of East Coast surfing." Catri was born (1938) in Carteret, New Jersey, moved with his family to south Florida at age seven, and was a state championship high jumper in high school. He worked in a Miami Beach high-dive comedy act in 1957, along with California transplant Jack Murphy, who a few years later became internationally known as the diamond-stealing "Murph the Surf."

It was Murphy who showed Catri how to ride waves in early 1958, and not long afterward the two traveled north to introduce surfing to the Indialantic-Cocoa Beach area. Catri and Murphy drove to California in 1959, ending their visit by stealing two boards from a Carlsbad surfing school; Catri then moved to Hawaii where, over the next five years, he worked as a lifeguard at the Pearl Harbor Officers' Club, fixed dings and swept the floors at Surfboards Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu (where he learned how to build surfboards), and became the first East Coast surfer to ride Pipeline and Waimea Bay.

Catri appeared in Bruce Brown's movie Surfing Hollow Days (1962), as well as Dale Davis's Inside Out (1965), and was hired as the "aquatics director" and extra during the filming of Columbia Pictures' 1964 film Ride the Wild Surf. Returning to Florida in 1964, he opened the Satellite Beach Surf Shop; the following year he and his stellar East Coast surf team—including Bruce Valluzzi, Mimi Munro, Mike Tabeling, and Gary Propper—became part of the Hobie Surfboards empire. In 1966 Catri opened Shagg's Surf Shop on the Cocoa Beach Pier, with another outlet in Indialantic. One year earlier he'd founded the precursor to today's Cocoa Beach Easter Surfing Festival.

Catri Surfboards opened in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in 1968, and a few years later Catri got involved with the nascent East Coast pro scene as a way to promote his business. He founded the Florida Pro contest in 1972, along with the American Professional Surfing tour, which, by 1975, had a 14-event schedule. The 1976 Florida Pro was the first East Coast contest to be part of the world pro tour. Catri also had a hand in local surfing politics; in 1970 he played a crucial role in resolving the wars between surfers and fishermen at Sebastian Inlet, Florida's premier surf break, lobbying local and state politicians until the property next to the Sebastian jetty was designated a state park and surfing area.

In the early '80s, Catri turned his attention to East Coast amateur surfing, and coached a number of preteen surfers, including Todd Holland and Kelly Slater. Catri himself had been competing all along, winning the senior men's division of the 1969 East Coast Surfing Championships, and finishing runner-up in the seniors division of the 1978 United States Surfing Championships. He also competed in the 1967 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational at Sunset Beach, Hawaii. Catri was the top East Coast vote-getter in the 1966 International Surfing Hall of Fame Awards; 30 years later he was among the first group of surfers inducted into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame.

Catri gained a measure of surf world infamy when in 1972 he was arrested and convicted after selling 200 pounds of marijuana to an undercover agent. He served 13 months in jail.