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Hanging $10 in OC to remember surfer


OCEAN CITY -- "Girls, where are you going? Nobody leaves!"

This is fund-raising, surfer style. Rick Pairo is working the door at Scandals nightclub on Coastal Highway, asking patrons for a $10 donation. He is among the friends of the late Mike Chester who have gathered to raise money for a statue to honor him and the surfing lifestyle.

The statue, initially endorsed by the City Council, caused quite a stir earlier this summer when pictures sent by the California sculptor showed the larger-than-life-size bronze to be of a naked man catching a big wave.

That hurdle's behind the surfers now, though.

"The shorts are on and so's the party!" chortled Brad "B-Rad" Hoffman, one of the organizers of Wednesday night's benefit at Scandals. His band, Fly Trap, is one of three playing for free for the benefit.

Sculptor Edmond Shumpert has agreed to put shorts on the statue, which was inspired by Mr. Chester's death at age 27 from cancer. The city, reassured that the statue will be clothed, ,, is now investigating the feasibility of a site at the Route 90 bridge and Coastal Highway.

"Where we looked was still within State Highway Administration property," says City Manager Dennis Dare.

He says the city will work with state officials and see if the site can be used.

Mr. Pairo, Mr. Hoffman and fellow surfer Martin Furst have been working all summer, asking local businesses to donate shirts, wetsuits and surfboards for raffles. They hope the party at Scandals will be the first of several successful fund-raising efforts.

"We're trying to set a big precedent," Mr. Hoffman said. "We're still about $30,000 short."

The statue's total cost is estimated at $60,000 and the surfers have been paying in installments as the work progresses. Mr. Hoffman says the statue is ready for casting, and Mr. Shumpert will cast it in parts as the money becomes available.

Their commitment to the cause is evident Wednesday night. By 9:55, a short line has formed. The Scandals employees who check patrons' IDs are helping out, explaining what the benefit is and what the desired donation is to those waiting in line.

"They know the deal, Rick," says one as a cluster of young women, proven 21, moves toward Mr. Pairo. Sizing them up, Mr. Pairo offers them a package deal -- all three of them for a single price. They confer, heads bent over purses, then agree, pay and move into the nightclub.

Inside, the in-your-face-and-in-your-fillings beat of hip-hop thunders through the dark, cavernous space. Surfing movies are being run on the video screens over the club's numerous bars, and a big sign announces that this is the Surfing Memorial Benefit. Upstairs, Mr. Furst is selling T-shirts promoting the statue, and free pizza is available. Patrons wash down the pizza with beers, many of them from the plastic goldfish bowls that Scandals promotes (32 ounces of beer for $1).

It's a successful night for the surfers -- more than 250 people come through the door, most of them paying at least $10 for the memorial that Mr. Pairo has explained over and over, repetition dulling neither his enthusiasm nor his laid-back style of philanthropy.

Even a couple of would-be patrons, turned away because they have no identification, stop by Mr. Pairo's station on their way out, handing over some money. "It's for a good cause, man," says one to Mr. Pairo.

Next up is a movie, the surfers say, a screening next week of "Ten Toes Over" at the health club owned by Mr. Furst's parents.

The surfers say they want the events to include those who are too young to get into nightclubs and this event will not involve alcoholic beverages.

aflead,1 Three of Mike Chester's relatives are on hand for the event: his father and two brothers.

"I have two of Michael's boards -- nobody rides them," says Robert Chester, who still uses the present tense when talking of the older brother who died more than three years ago. His 7-month-old son is named for Mike, and Mr. Chester's sense of loss is evident.

He's been showing friends his new tattoo: a surfer catching a wave on his left pectoral. It's not finished, he says; he has to go back to the tattoo artist to have "in loving memory of Mike Chester" added to the elaborate design.

"I'm still not over it," he says.

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