Nearly a dozen years ago, the death of beaches’ local, Matt “Rasta” Gray, at just 21-years of age, left an enormous void in the hearts of his friends and relatives. And the beaches community, as a whole, mourned in Gray’s wake.

“Matt was a one-of-a-kind human,” says Dane Jefferys, who grew up with Gray. “He lived fast and did a lot in his life in the short years he was alive. Its like that Grateful Dead song, Box of Rain, ‘Such a long, long time to be gone. And a short time to be there.’ Plus, he never met a stranger and could kick it with anyone. He skated, surfed, was an amazing artist, and I miss him, everyday.”

In the weeks and months following Gray’s death, his friends—including Jefferys, Wayne Satterwhite, Taylor Jensen, J.C. Cox, Leon McGovern, Garrett Adamason, Ethan Lauer, Tommy Hyde, and Karina Petroni—mobilized, drawing on their recently deceased companion’s buoyant enthusiasm, to make certain they turned a tragic situation into something positive.

“That was the first death of a person our age [we’d experienced] and at first we didn’t know how to take it,” Jefferys says.  “Instead of going dark and allowing it to consume us with negative thoughts, we sought out a way to let Matt’s bright, vibrant attitude and personality shine.”

Matt “Rasta” Gray as a Junior at Duncan U. Fletcher High School

The Matt Gray Memorial Surf & Skate contest was born, in earnest, in the month’s following Gray’s death. With a couple of tents on the beach and some portable speakers, the group of Gray’s freinds organized a surf contest, collecting money to pay for the funeral expenses of their lost brother. From there, the event grew to include a skate contest, with proceeds directly supporting college scholarships for local kids from the surf and skate community.

The Matt Gray Memorial Contest has grown from a small gathering of friends to a destination event for surfers and skaters from all over the coast. Here, close friend of Gray and event organizer Wayne Satterwhite pours some out for his lost brother during last year’s surf contest.

The Matt Gray Memorial skate contest, which kicks off the event each year at Oceanside Rotary Skatepark in Atlantic Beach, has become a well-attended exhibition, featuring some of North Florida’s best skateboarders

Nearly eleven years later the Matt Gray Memorial Contest has raised more than $50K and helped 15 students through college.

With the 11th Annual contest schedule for April 13th and 14th, The Skate Yard in Atlantic Beach will screen a documentary about the Matt Gray Memorial on Wednesday, April 11, at 7PM.

“It’s more of an explanation of what happens behind the scenes and why we all do it,” Jefferys says of the film. “We tried to capture some interviews from Matt’s friends and family. We have a lot of clips of the waves and skating from last year’s event, so it should be fun for people who were there last year, or people who want to sign up this year.

Speaking of signing up, surf and skate contest entry forms will be available at the screening, as well as at Sunrise Surf Shop.