One Last Wave Project: helping grieving families by engraving the names of their deceased loved ones on surfboards and taking them for a surf | Photo: OLWP

Losing someone special forever is hard. The One Last Wave Project (OLWP) helps people cope with loss and grief by inscribing the names of their loved ones on authentic surfboards and taking them for a ride.

Dan Fischer has climbed the highest mountains at implausible odds.

He has traversed the sky with only a parachute and has ridden giant waves in dangerous seas.

Accustomed to embracing terrifying danger in high-risk sports, Fischer had to face the greatest fear of his life - the devastating loss of his father and his best friend - in a very short time.

So, this surfer, originally from Montreal, Canada, turned to the waves to heal himself through the transformative power of the ocean.

Fischer began hitting the surf around Newport, Rhode Island, where he has lived for the past seven years.

He wanted to share the healing power of the waves with others.

One Last Wave Project: each surfboard has around 2,000 names engraved on deck and bottom | Photo: OLWP

A Tribute to Late Loved Ones

On January 4, 2022, after a surfing session in frigid waters in the middle of winter, Fischer decided to do something different and unique.

He sent an open invitation on social networks to people to share their stories and names of their deceased loved ones who loved surfing and the ocean as much as he did.

He also promised to engrave their names on his board and take them out to the ocean for one last ride.

In just one week on TikTok, Fischer's outreach became a movement that he has dubbed One Last Wave Project.

People began sharing the names and stories of lost loved ones on the site's comment board, and Fischer began engraving their names.

A dozen soon became 100, and one year after the launch, five memorial boards had already gathered thousands of names.

The name and logo of the OLWP have significant meanings.

"One last wave" is a phrase often excitedly shouted by surfers in the water, reflective of the thrill of riding the power of the ocean and the desire to perpetually chase that feeling.

The logo combines the foundational imagery of surfing with a vibrant color palette of deep ocean blues and pink sunset skies, aiming to convey the sense of a magical sunset surfing session.

However, the design goes beyond the typical corporate surf logo to encompass the profound sensitivity and individuality that comes along with grief.

The surfboard and the vertical line passing through it create a peace sign held up by the waves, and the name etchings on the board, depicted by the black horizontal lines, represent loved ones as they wait to catch their one last wave.

"Something we always say out there is, 'one last wave.' There's always one last wave to catch, and I wanted to give it to others," Fischer says.

"So many stories have been shared about loved ones who always wanted to learn to surf, or how the ocean was their favorite place and, unfortunately, their families didn't know it."

"I couldn't get them there in time, but I made a commitment to make sure they got out there for that one last wave."

Dan Fischer: the founder of the One Last Wave Project lost his father to pancreatic cancer | Photo: OLWP

Thousands of Names on Surfboards

The one-man show initiative sees Fischer spending hours a day connecting with people on social media and registering names.

However, he knows he's going to need help collecting names and stories as the list grows, and he's already looking to get more longboards to accommodate more names.

"It's important to me that each person's story is told," he says.

"I would love to see it expanded where surfers from all over the world can join the movement and take their loved ones out to the ocean from wherever they are."

The surfboards used in the project are hand-shaped, and each has approximately 2,000 names of loved ones etched, one by one, onto its top and bottom.

The entire process of creating a board typically takes 2-3 months.

Dan Fischer does not provide individual images of each completed board due to the large number of submissions they receive.

However, he posts professional images and videos on their social media pages and website when a board is completed, which can be used by families to look for the name of their loved one.

The surfboards are not for sale.

The primary reason is that they continue to be used for surfing to keep the memories of loved ones alive.

Additionally, since the boards carry the names of many individuals, it wouldn't be fair to sell them to one family.

One Last Wave Project: the process of shaping and engraving the names on the surfboard takes 2-3 months | Photo: OLWP​

A Long-Lasting Memorial

If you are interested in seeing the boards in person, the OLWP is open to showing them to anyone visiting Newport, Rhode Island.

They are also considering the possibility of displaying the boards so that more people can see them.

Last but not least, each surfboard has a QR code developed by Surf Neutral that can be scanned with a phone.

This leads to a website listing all the names on that board, sorted alphabetically.

This doesn't translate to the order of the names on the board itself, however, as they are written in the order they were submitted.

Therefore, you'll need to examine the posted images/videos to locate a specific name once you know which board it's on​1.

Fischer says people keep asking if it's too late to put their loved one's name on his board.

No, it isn't - he wants people to know it's never too late. Why? Dan's in it for the long haul.

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