A huge crowd of family, friends and well-wishers turned up at East Hampton Point in Springs on Sunday for a waterfront, sunset tribute to Dashiel Marder, the gutsy spearfisherman who disappeared on a free dive off Indonesia last spring.
The 30-year-old from Springs, who often went by “Dash,” failed to resurface on April 17 after diving without air tanks in an effort to shoot a tuna with a speargun. His body was never found.
On Sunday, a well-dressed, teary-eyed crowd came to pay their respects to the “free spirit,” as his aunt, Sue Ellen Marder O’Connor, called him.
In addition to spearfishing, the adventurous soul, a Springs School and East Hampton High School graduate, was a hunter and a journal writer who traveled the world, staying on farms all over when not plunging face first into the ocean depths.
Mr. Marder’s deer mounts adorned the walls near the entrance of the restaurant, and his collection of duck decoys sat perched on shelves behind the bar. An array of his spearfishing gear lined another wall.
Throughout the restaurant hung framed photos of him diving, sans scuba gear, and grinning on deck holding massive fish. Upstairs was devoted to two slide shows. One displayed photo after photo of Mr. Marder with yet another fish, each one seemingly bigger and more impressive than the last. The other flipped through childhood shots.
Guests were encouraged to read through booklets of Mr. Marder’s own poems and jot down thoughts and memories of him.
And they did: “You were an amazing person, and at one with the sea,” wrote one couple. “All adventurers inspire us forever.”
Another wrote: “All our love and support. What a testament to do what you love with all your passion.”
“Someone said he wanted to be the Hemingway of his time,” Ms. Marder O’Connor said, “but he was more like the Jack London of his time.”
Guests were also encouraged to retell their stories of Mr. Marder, and Mick Hargreaves, a North Sea musician and producer, sat in the corner with his recording equipment ready to capture their tales.
Michael Barone of Shinnecock Hills went first. He told of when Mr. Marder was 12 or 14 and just starting out with his daring hobby off Block Island, and how he eventually advanced to pursuing the elusive dogtooth tuna.
The Marders, the owners of Marders Garden Center and Nursery in Bridgehampton, also had an organic way to celebrate Dash’s life: trees.
As tribute, the family invited guests to take with them a tri-color European beech tree, a slow-growing plant. They also encouraged those who took the trees to keep the Marders aware of where they plant them, so that they could map out the locations and see where Dash’s memory was growing.
Silas Marder, Dash’s oldest brother (the four brothers are Silas, Mica, Dashiel and Tucker) and a main organizer of the event, took the podium to say how he and Dash had butted heads a lot, but in later years grew closer. He recalled how his younger brother was all about timing. “If you weren’t there for dinner in that exact half hour, he’d be off to Montauk,” he said. He also told of how his brother wanted to learn German and Italian and brush up on his Spanish.
After several brief comments, the Marders motored out on a boat in Three Mile Harbor and set off a gun salute in the setting sun.
Chris Miller of Montauk, who had been freediving with Dash, recalled fondly how he once dove off a rocky outcropping and paddled furiously to get away from a bull shark, one of the most dangerous types of sharks, in Mexico.
Meanwhile, Judd Rosen of Miami, Florida, another freediver, who had been with Mr. Marder on his ill-fated trip to Indonesia (Mr. Marder stayed longer), flipped through a coffee-table book he had made of the trip and planned to present to the family.
The book featured crisp, breathtaking photos of Mr. Marder and his buddies doing what they loved.
“The guy had the best lungs,” Mr. Rosen said of Mr. Marder.
He also said that the last trip was phenomenal.
“If you could picture the best trip of your life, magnify it by 100,” he said. “You didn’t want to go to sleep it was so much fun.”
At one point, Mr. Marder and his pals were in the water when a volcano started erupting behind them, ash falling into their snorkels. It was a highlight like no other.
“Dash was like Superman,” said his cousin Kevin Foran, covering his emotion with his sunglasses. “He was the coolest guy ever.”