NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Don Eichin spent most of his time on the beach as a teenager.
“When I was going to school at the Merchant Marine Academy I traveled to Hawaii. A girl asked me if I want to try her board, and I said I’d love to and I rode my first wave in 1957 and I’m doing it ever since,” he said.
It was then at the age of 18, that he fell in love with surfing and bought a house right on the pipeline. He then bought his own video camera to capture his escapades.
“I took a lot of 8mm file that’s sat in my basement for decades until the film maker Thomas Brookins discovered my films,” he said.
Eichen then returned home where he began a 30-year-long career as a firefighter and started his own family.
Both sons who are featured in the film ‘Fire And Water’ followed in his footsteps with their love of the ocean, and by joining the FDNY.
“I think surfing is adrenaline filled, addicting fun thing to do. Firefighting is a great job, adrenaline filled, it’s fun. It just goes together, it’s thrill seeking,” Randy Eichin said.
“We are beach bum surfers, firemen fell right into the shoes of his career. We are very proud of him,” Eric Eichin added.
The documentary also shows the strong connection between the firefighters and surfing. Don said their flexible schedules give them the freedom to indulge in the relaxing sport.
“I think Don is like a legend in his time. When surfers go to see this movie they’ll be inspired and they’ll know that this has been going on from generations and it makes us proud as a community,” Ingrid Dodd, Cofounder, LBIFF said.
So what does Eichin plan to do after his 15 minutes of fame are up?
“When the surf is up on the beach I’m with my two kids and grandkids shooting them and taking pictures and videos of them. Surfing is surfing, you never stop,” he said.
Eichin has been called a pioneer of surfing for bringing a west coast sport to the east coast.
There is a place on the beach in Hawaii that is still nicknamed ‘Gums’ after Eichin who lost three front teeth while surfing in the 60s.