Remembering Joe Rocco

Joe Rocco and friends
Photos: PG, and Jeff T.

Judging from some News websites some members of public were quick to judge Joe even though they knew nothing of him, the sport he loved, his veteran skills, and his caring legacy.

It's a shame that many of the public who read brief news will never know the real Joe that we have had the good fortune to share our lives with, whether a little bit or a lot. Few outside of this group would have any clue that Joe was also a veteran of dozens of storms, had assessed a thousand winds, read the story of the tempest across the surface of more waters than most could imagine.

It's ironic, but if someone was in trouble out there, Joe was the first one anyone would think of as most likely to go help, whether any kind of help or even rescue was really needed, or know what was best to do. It's ironic when Joe needed another Joe out there, there was no other Joe Rocco, because, as well all here know ... there only is, and ever will be one Joe Rocco.

Those who learned to sail from scratch here, in the last 20 or so years, like me, will surely remember a time or two when they were floundering around, and Joe sailed by and asked "everything OK? Need any help?"

And then later, when you'd earned your wings, you'd find yourself hooting and hollering out there, and Joe inevitably passed by on the opposite tack. Or sometimes the same tack. He was pretty much everywhere out there. And somehow it was always 4.7.

Joe and friends Joe and friends, Hurricane Bertha, 1996
Photo by PG

Every wind direction, every windy condition, rain, fog or half-hour squall; if you were here, you likely sailed it with Joe, even if you didn't know.

He sometimes gave lessons to our wives, chatted with our kids, and never turned down an opportunity to shoot the breeze and chat with anyone of us, and probably a lot of us all on the same day. How he got any sailing done is a wonder.

We've all spent the last week probably consumed with thought of Joe. Like puppies wandering lost from the campsite. Seeing pictures of Joe in our minds, and almost hearing his voice with some wry or commonsense philosophical observation.

He has been a helping hand more in more times of need, the solver of stuck masts, stuck booms, wiggly fin boxes needing a shim, and he was a master of the rubber mallet and WD40.

I laugh when I think for a minute of all the pro athletes who go on strike for a few $million more. And then you think of Joe coming here, nearly every day there was a hint of usable wind, and the thousands of passers by who stopped and watched his athleticism, free as the wind.

It's unfathomable that he's gone. He lived by the wind and died by the wind. And it seems, there's no rogue gust or piece of debris that was going to halt or really explain that fate. So all of us somehow, must go on with this void in us, the size and shape of Joe in our hearts and minds.

If there's an emptiness to be filled, we have our individual and collective memories of Joe to fill it. Funny stories, tales of his kindness and generosity, and recollections of his humility, in the face of things that, as they sometimes do in windsurfing ... just plain don't work, or work out quite the way we expected.

We're here for Marianne and each other, and Joe. And, hopefully, each time we sail, we can sail a run or two for the Mayor.

Who of us knew the last time we came here would be the last time we would see Joe? We probably each have our own memories of that. Joe was so "there" that it was too easy to take for granted he would just be here the next time you came, as sure as the sun rises.

Now we have his memory, and when the sun rises here again, it will be at "Joe's Beach," and that's probably what people will call it, at least until that day comes when we're all rigging the last 4.7; the one that never needs to be de-rigged.

Other Tributes
Peconic Puffin Link: Remembering Joe Rocco
Drysuit2 Link: Remembering Joe Rocco
Joe and friends Hurricane Isabel, 2003
Photo by Jeff Tanenbaum

Joe and friends
All in a day's wind, an ordinary northwesterly somewhere on the North Shore