Kevin Cody

Mike Bright won 5 Manhattan Beach VB Opens, Catalina Paddleboard race

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Tom Zahn, Greg Noll and Mike Bright in Melbourne, Australia in 1956.

by Buddy Bohn

Five time Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Tournament winner (with partner Mike O’Hara) and Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race record setter Mike “Bones” Bright passed away Sept. 22, at age 79.

Bright grew up in Hermosa Beach and was a member of the 17th Street Surfing Seals. They spent their summers surfing and playing volleyball, creating the model for what would later be marketed as “The Beach Lifestyle.”

He was an All American basketball player at Mira Costa High School and an inductee into El Camino College’s “Basketball Hall of Fame.” In 2006 he was inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame.

But Bright is best remembered for his volleyball career. He was an All American from 1960-1964, and a member of the USA National Volleyball team in 1960. In 1963 his team won the silver medal at the Pan Am Games. He competed on U.S. Olympic teams in Tokyo, the first year volleyball was an Olympic sport, and in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Between 1959 and 1970, he won 44 beach volleyball open tournaments and was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Bright was also one of the his era’s top paddleboarders and lifeguard competitors. The legendary Tom Zahn said “Bones” was the fastest paddler he’d ever seen.

Mike Bright (second from left) with fellow 17th street Surfing Seals Charley Davis, Johnny Rind, Bill Bryson, Chip Post, Steve Voorhees, Jeff White, Sonny Vardeman and Jimmer Lindsey. (Not shown Rick Stoner).

In addition to victories in the 32 Mile Catalina Classic, from the Catalina’s Two Harbors to the Manhattan Beach pier, Bright won the Hawaii Diamond Head race and was a member of the USA lifeguard team that competed in the First International Surf Lifesaving Carnival, held in conjunction with the 1956 Melbourne, Olympic Games. Bones and fellow team members introduced the Aussies to the modern balsa wood and fiberglass surfboard, now called a Mal, slang for Malibu.

Bright owned Malibu Divers and was an early advocate for the scuba diving industry. Sadly, at the age of 37, he suffered a dive accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Though required to use a wheelchair, he continued to work at his shop, swim, and coach volleyball.

In 2014, with his health failing, the Catalina Classic was raced in his honor.

Bright is survived by children Jodi, Lari, David and Bonnie and his sister Donna Bright Dobson.

A memorial paddleout out will be held Saturday, October 28, at 9 a.m. at the Hermosa Beach Pier. ER

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