The Catalina Classic mourns
The Passing of Legendary Waterman, Mike “Bones” Bright
11/3/1937 – 9/22/2017
Mike was a multiple record holder in the Catalina races of the 1950’s. He was winner of the Diamond Head race and numerous national and international paddleboard races. The legendary Tom Zahn claimed, “Bones” was the fastest paddler he’d every seen. Mike was a L.A. County Ocean Lifeguard and a top ocean athlete, dominating many lifeguard paddling events. He was a member of the USA lifeguard team invited to compete in the first International Surf Lifesaving Carnival, held in conjunction with the 1956 Melbourne, Australia, Olympic Games. Bones and fellow team members introduced the Aussies and the world to the modern balsawood and fiberglass surfboard, now called a Mal, slang for Malibu. This truly international exchange of equipment, training, competitive events, and organizational strategies advanced ocean life saving worldwide.
Mike’s athleticism went beyond his ocean skills. He was an All American Basketball player at Mira Costa High School and an Inductee into El Camino College’s “Basketball Hall of Fame”.
Bones is probably best remembered for his legendary volleyball skills. An All American from 1960-1964, he was a member of the USA National Volleyball team in 1960, competing at the World Championships in Brazil. In 1963 he earned a silver medal at the Pan Am Games. He was a two-time Volleyball Olympian, 1964 and 1968. In beach volleyball he competed in 44 Open Tournaments from 1958-1970. He was a 5-time winner of the Manhattan Beach Open, and is remembered with a plaque on the Manhattan Beach pier’s “Walk of Fame”. He was enshrined in the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Mike grew up on Hermosa Beach’s 17th street and Strand. He and his young friends formed a club called the “17 th Street Surfing Seals”. Many of these young Seals grew up to be legendary Waterman, leaders in Lifeguarding, the Surfing Industry, boat building, the Dive Industry, law, local politics, and more. Mike and friends spent their time on the sand and sea, surfing and volleyball was a way of life. They lived what is now marketed as “The Beach Life Style”.
Mike was the owner of Malibu Divers dive shop and was an early advocate for the Scuba Diving Industry. Sadly, at the age of 37, he suffered a dive accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Confined to a wheelchair, he continued to work at his shop, swim, and coach volleyball. During his final years he lived with his daughter, Bonnie Bright Counts, in Vista, CA. In 2014, the Catalina Classic dedicated that year’s channel crossing to Mike, honoring the legacy of excellence he’d brought to our sport of paddling. Due to his declining health, he was unable to attend the 2014 race, but he did pass on his words of encouragement and appreciation for being honored.
Mike will not only be remembered for his amazing athletic achievements, but for his humility, sportsmanship, sense of humor, and humanity.
Our condolences go out to Mike’s four surviving children, Jodi, Lari, David and Bonnie, as well as his sister, Donna Bright Dobson.
A Paddle Out is planned for Saturday, October 28, 2017, 9:00 am Hermosa Pier.