Ocean Beach remembers local surfing icon and family man John Kays

by on October 4, 2011 · 5 comments

in Life Events, Ocean Beach

On Saturday, October 2, Ocean Beach celebrated the life of John Kays, a long-time area resident known for his love for his family, his passion for surfing, and his always-friendly personality.

More than 100 of John’s friends joined members of his family on the sand near Ocean Beach’s Avalanche break to remember John. Dozens of surfers also paddled out on to the ocean, forming a circle in John’s honor.

From the event’s program:

“John spent his youth growing up in Texas and at the age of 21, in search of better surf, made the journey out to San Diego… John met his wife, Troy, in Ocean Beach in 1994… John and Troy settled in Ocean Beach and started a family, welcoming daughter Brynn in 1998 and daughter Aidan in 2002.

“John will forever be remembered for his natural charm, laid-back demeanor, high integrity – and a simple kindness that he extended to everyone he encountered in his life. John was also well known for his work at Merchants Postal, where he helped provide critical employment, direction and a sense of compassion and dignity to many people from the homeless community in the Ocean Beach area.

“Above all, John’s greatest loves were his family, friends and time spent in the ocean. He was a devoted husband and father, a loyal and genuine friend, and an avid surfer who lived life to its fullest.

“John is survived by his wife Troy Kays; their daughters Brynn and Aidan; his eldest daughter Ashley Libkie of Anchorage, Alaska; his mother Ericka Conaway and step-father Ed Conaway of Lake Jackson, Texas; his mother- and father-in-law Briar and Merv Luckie of Auckland, New Zealand; and an abundance of life-long friends.”

I got to know John when I lived on Brighton Street, just a few doors down from him and his family. John was almost always doing one of three things when I saw him: heading off to work, riding bikes with his daughters, or jumping into his wetsuit as he prepared for a surf session down at Avalanche, the jetty, or Sunset Cliffs.

Over the years, I would occasionally jump in John’s big white van and join him on one of his daily surfing outings, bringing my video camera along to capture his remarkable skills on film. As a small tribute to John, I collected some of the best shots from those sessions in this short video:

For information on how to donate to the Kays Family memorial fund, see WeLoveSurferJohn.com

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

BOBOB October 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Ouch. Didn’t hear before seeing this page. Wow. Seems like I just saw him on his bike board in hand. Gonna miss this guy.


Alissa October 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Wow. I only talked to John very briefly one time… I used to see him headed up or down Brighton all the time. He was just one of the people you didn’t have to know to know what a great human being they are. My heart really goes out to the Kays.


Jane October 5, 2011 at 9:54 am

What a nice tribute! Yes, anyone who lived off the alley on Brighton saw John daily either with his board, with his kids and boards, or with Sasha, his dog, the kids, and the boards. Put I also will see him standing on his porch evenings with Troy while they were watching the kids and dog playing in the alley. A lovely family!


missionmartymar October 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I cant belieave it still, i keep waiting for him to show up at ospray or bird my surf s are not as soulful as they once were…..I just look up and say miss you bud and make sure i go left at leaset once in every session ……..


Debbie W November 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I lived in OB from 1979 to 2003. moving around two years here or there always came back to OB. Grew up in pacific beach. I rented/lived at 1943/1948 brighton ave. For close to 20 years, rented from three different owners. John and Troy Kays were the last and the best people I could have had as landlords or nieghbors. I remember when they were buying the property Troy was in her early pregnancy with “Brynn” and John was so dedicated to her to make her life as easy as possible. He was such a positive person. They had great dreams for the property. The front house was in such bad shape when they bought it. That was the first house on the lot I lived in. It’s foundation was so bad that one of the bedrooms walls were separating from the ceiling, you could see the sunrise on the bedroom wall though the crack. John got he’s great friends that he has and they came and did what should have been done YEARS AGO!!! They lifted one side of a whole house, leveled the basturd Amazing!! I admire anyone that can be that dedicated and John and Troy were. I rented from them for several years and I regretfully lost touch with them in end of 2003. and I will make an effort to re- connect, I know just by reading all the memoriels. John will live on forever.


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