A wave of surfers wearing wetsuits and carrying boards trickled into the cold water off Scott Cameron Beach, known as the cut, in Bridgehampton on Sunday evening.
Carrying flowers, the group of roughly 40 locals paddled into the water, where they formed a circle as hundreds of spectators on the beach looked on silently. Most of the surfers knew each other, and on another occasion they might have been laughing and joking, waiting for the next wave.
But not on Sunday.
For the next few minutes, the surfers paused, hand in hand, while they remembered one of their own, 24-year-old Jason Pollak, who was killed in a weekend car crash in Southampton, and comforted one another where it felt most safe, on the water. Before long they released hands, throwing their flowers toward the sky and screaming for Mr. Pollak to hear them, as they symbolically let go of their friend.
Mr. Pollak, a lifelong Water Mill resident, died early Saturday morning when the car in which he was a passenger crashed at the intersection of Flying Point Road and Montauk Highway. According to police, emergency personnel responded to the scene at 2:37 a.m. on Saturday and found a 1997 Toyota Avalon driven by Allison Jane Rydberg, 25, of Hampton Bays resting next to a tree, which it had apparently struck. Firefighters removed both Mr. Pollak and Ms. Rydberg from the car, and Mr. Pollak was pronounced dead a short time later at Southampton Hospital.
Ms. Rydberg was transported to Southampton Hospital by Southampton Village Ambulance before being transported to Stony Brook University Medical Center. She was later has charged with DWI as a result of the accident, arraigned in Southampton Village Justice Court Monday morning and released on $75,000 cash bail. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, according to police.
When not in the water or training in jiu-jitsu, Mr. Pollak was a marketing agent for Railex, a refrigerated train service used to transport cold foods across the country, owned by his father, Andrew Pollak. Through his work at Railex, Mr. Pollak was able to collaborate with The Smack Pack, a company that helps design an interactive brand for businesses. It was there three years ago that he met David Buivid.
One of the things Mr. Buivid remembers about Mr. Pollak was his giving nature. Over the past year, he said, Mr. Pollak has been working to create a new charity organization, Worldwide Psychos, dedicated to finding people in need and helping them. “The Psychos are a network of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and donate their time to physically making the world a better place,” the website worldwidepsychos.org says.
This week, those who knew Mr. Pollak said they best remember his fiery tenacity and spirit, and that he will always be remembered for his larger-than-life personality. An avid surfer and student of jiu-jitsu, he was a graduate of Southampton High School and Hawaii Pacific University.
“Nobody has ever had a heart like this kid,” said family friend Ryan Saboe on Tuesday. “He was super disciplined in whatever he took on, and he had the heart of a lion.”
In a post on the Smack Pack website on Tuesday morning, Mr. Buivid paid tribute to his friend, saying he will be missed every day. “His character is what will be remembered,” he wrote. “His vivaciousness, eagerness to learn, generosity and most notably his selflessness was a gift to everyone whom Jason met.”
Family friend Chris Arancio said he will always remember how Mr. Pollak took challenges head on, whether at work, in the water or traveling around the world. The two had been a part of a larger group of surfers who have traveled the world from Hawaii to Tahiti in search of waves.
Mr. Arancio, who was at the paddle-out ceremony on Sunday night, said the memorial was a fitting tribute to such an amazing young man. At the end, he said, as the flowers from the circle drifted to the shore, kids took them, replanting them in the sand so Mr. Pollak’s memory would live on.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It truly was.”
Mr. Pollak is survived by his parents, Andrew and Pamela Pollak, and his brother, Brian. He was buried in a private, graveside service on Sunday morning at the Shaarey Pardes Accabonac Grove Cemetery on Old Stone Highway in Springs.
Friends and family are planning a series of events to remember Mr. Pollak, including a jiu-jitsu event at Kioto Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Main Street in Sayville to be organized by Mr. Saboe. All who knew Mr. Pollak are invited to attend at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. “It is a final roll with JPO,” as Mr. Pollak was known, Mr. Saboe said.
According to Mr. Saboe, there will be a second paddle-out in Mr. Pollak’s honor on August 9, although the details are still coming together for the event.
“Rest well, my friend,” Mr. Buivid wrote. “Your pure and selfless spirit was a gift to us all. We will miss you terribly. I hope that you get to ride the biggest wave.”