When he posted this TikTok video on January 4th in hopes of connecting with others experiencing profound grief, local surfer Dan Fischer didn’t know he was starting a worldwide movement to help people cope with the loss of a loved one.

In less than four weeks, Fischer’s viral invitation to share the names and stories of lost loved ones has reached thousands of grieving individuals around the world. So far, they’ve shared more than 4,000 names of lost family members and friends with Fischer, who is working to memorialize all of the names in writing on his surfboards and take them to the ocean to catch one last wave. He’s already filled his inaugural surfboard with approximately 1,500 names and is calling his compassion project the One Last Wave Project (OLWP). 

OLWP recently caught the attention of Upworthy and has provided Fischer, who’s been surfing on Aquidneck Island for approximately ten years, with a meaningful way to cope with his own grief. In 2019, Fischer suffered the loss of his father followed by his beloved canine companion Rudy. As he worked through the grief he experienced from the back-to-back losses, Fischer found solace riding the waves off Newport and connecting with the ocean.

With OLWP, his mission is to connect others with the healing, transformative power of the ocean as well. Read on for our full interview with Dan Fischer and learn more about One Last Wave Project here.

After connecting with so many people around the world through this project, what have you learned about grief?

I’ve learned how connected we all are in grief. We are never truly alone even when it often feels very isolating. Compassion has the ability to positively impact others’ lives no matter how small the gesture. Our time here is limited. Be happy, be kind, pursue your dreams and cherish the moments shared with loved ones because they can be taken away so easily.

How has connecting with others in this way helped you with your own grief?

 I certainly didn’t set out on this journey with the goal of somehow helping heal my own grief. I started to heal in the ocean through surfing and thought others who might not be able to participate in it in that way could too. However, I have found profound happiness and meaning through this small act of kindness. Speaking to all of the families and seeing how this project has brought comfort and healing in a way they too never expected to find has connected us and brought joy on both sides. I feel a greater sense of purpose, a mission in a way to help as many as we can with One Last Wave.  

What about surfing is healing or therapeutic for you?

It forces you to be hyper focused in the moment. Time slows to a screeching halt and all the noise of the world disappears. The fluid immersion, surrounded by so many natural elements— where you are not fighting the ebbs and flows as you do in your everyday life but instead trying to harness all that power and just flow with it— connects you. Surfers always say it is the greatest feeling in the world and I think even that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a saltwater euphoric feeling that washes over your entire body, cleansing you of so much negative energy.

Photo by Jennifer Manville (@jennifer.manville)

How many names have been submitted to date?

We have over 4,000 names and counting.

How many were you able to fit on one surfboard and how many surfboards have you filled with names?

We had about 1,500 on the first board, which was sort of a trimmed down, downrailer type board from the 70s that I restored. The new boards that are being shaped will be more full volume longboards with more space so I’m expecting upwards of 2,000 names to fit on each of those.

@onelastwave “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” #onelastwave #oceaneyes #surfing #saltlife #heal ♬ These Memories – Hollow Coves

How do you put the names on your board?

For the inaugural board, I painted it black and put the names on with a silver Sharpie. I wasn’t anticipating the incredible response I received and so now I’m working with shapers who want to help out with the project. We will have artists, with far better penmanship than me, write the names onto future boards before they are glassed

Photo by Jennifer Manville (@jennifer.manville)

Does your original surfboard have any local connection? Was it made or purchased locally?

It was given to me by my neighbor, Rosel Provost, here in Newport. She had just tragically lost both of her brothers, Roy and Leon, recently and offered me the board. The three of them grew up here and were well connected in mischief with the likes of Sid Abruzzi and the gang.

Have all of your One Last Wave rides been at Second Beach or elsewhere?

They are usually at First or Second Beach. I’ve yet to travel too far with the board. But there are certainly plans to do so as many folks have requested to meet and see their loved ones on the board in person.

How many times have you gone out on a One Last Wave Ride since you started the project in January?

 Initially, I took the board out with only a few names on and have continued to do so as it filled up. I’ve been out about ten times with it so far.

How long have you been surfing in Newport?

I’ve been surfing here for about 10 years, which is still considered fairly new in this sport of ageless legends.

Were you surprised to get the response you did? Was there anything you learned about TikTok compared to other social platforms? 

TikTok was the launchpad for this project for sure. The first few videos went viral and led to the article in Upworthy. While TikTok was a quarantine discovery for me as it has been for so many, I was impressed with the authentic engagement that I found on the platform. Kindness was embraced and in a sense rewarded by pushing the video out to a wider audience. But yes, I was very surprised and the response that initial video and open invitation garnered.

@onelastwave Reply to @jenw_24 The stories your share mean everything ❤️#onelastwave #oceaneyes #healingtiktok #surfergirl #oceanlover #dolphins ♬ original sound – OneLastWave

What’s the best way for someone to submit their loved one’s name to you?

The best way now is probably to submit their loved one through our website, www.onelastwaveproject.com. Alternatively, you can also direct message me through one of our social accounts:  Tiktok: @OneLastWave; Twitter: @OneLastWave: Instagram: @OneLastWaveProject

Anything else you’d like local people to know about the One Last Wave Project or you?

Many have been asking how they can help. Anyone looking to donate or offer expertise in graphic/web design, marketing, social media, business development, etc can reach out through our website.