FINGAL Bay was unusually rough when the Caruso family woke early Monday morning.
By afternoon, as hundreds gathered for a memorial paddle out for 13-year-old Josh Caruso, the tide had subsided and the wild waves and whitewater had vanished.
‘‘It was a bit rough, but it calmed down when we started paddling out,’’ Josh’s father Joe Caruso said.
‘‘That was Josh watching over us.’’
The talented young Belmont sportsman died of an undiagnosed condition – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – while walking to school on August 13.
Mr Caruso, his wife Belinda, family and friends, including those from the Wallsend Touch Football Association and Valentine-Eleebana junior rugby league club, and residents and holidaymakers at the Fingal Bay Holiday Park, gathered past the breakers for a celebration of Josh’s life.
They laid wreaths in the water, scattered rose petals, held hands and remembered the good times.
A lot of those treasured memories had occurred at Fingal Bay, Josh’s favourite holiday destination, where his family had spent numerous school holidays and long weekends over the past 20 years.
‘‘Josh was a bit of a larrikin, he rated himself a surfer and he really enjoyed his holidays here at Fingal Bay,’’ Mr Caruso said.
‘‘He loved going to the beach with his cousins Brock Locking and Buddy Botham. The boys were known as ‘the Bandits’ or ‘the Triplets’ because they were born only a few months apart and were inseparable during family holidays to Fingal.’’
Josh’s aunty, Kaylene Locking, said Brock had wanted the paddle-out to coincide with his 14th birthday.
Ms Locking organised the tribute through Facebook and was overwhelmed by the turnout.
‘‘We thought it was just going to be people from the caravan park, but there were friends who travelled from Newcastle and people who came back from their holidays,’’ Ms Locking said.
‘‘There would have been between 200 and 300 people. There was as many people on the shore as there was in the water.’’
The family want to start a foundation to raise money and awareness for the condition that claimed Josh’s life