Early on Father's Day Sunday, the Body Glove and Meistrell families lost an irreplaceable member of their clan, Body Glove co-founder and legendary waterman Bob Meistrell. Meistrell, 84, suffered a heart attack minutes after the start of the annual Rock2Rock race, two miles off of Catalina Island near Ship Rock.
The Meistrell family had gathered on Catalina for the weekend to celebrate the birthday of grandnephew, Daly, and partake in the annual race from Catalina to Palos Verdes, but the weekend took a downward turn after the start of the race. Meistrell was aboard his boat, Disappearance, preparing to be lead escort boat on the racecourse, as he had done many times over the years. As competitors took off from the start, the engines in Disappearance failed- an abnormal occurrence that Meistrell told a family member had never happened before. He climbed below into the engine room to change the fuel filters with family member Stephen Lockhart, when he collapsed.
Lockhart called for other family members and lifeguards, while beginning to administer CPR to Meistrell. When Isthmus Lifeguards arrived, Meistrell was unresponsive, so they moved him out of the engine room to the top deck and attempted to restart his heart with a defibrillator. After unsuccessful attempts to revive him, Meistrell was transported to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center, where doctors continued to their efforts for nearly two hours, before pronouncing Meistrell deceased.
Meistrell and his twin brother, Bill, who passed in 2006, were responsible for co-inventing the modern-day neoprene wetsuit in the 1950's. The wetsuit that 'fit like a glove' was given the name Body Glove, which grew into the Body Glove company that first outfitted the Navy and military with customized wetsuits, but now includes swim and active apparel, and will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. Meistrell and twin are also responsible for co-founding Southern California's string of surf and dive shops, Dive N' Surf and, and are inductees in the diving and surfing halls of fame. Bob was a true waterman, with abounding knowledge of the ocean and a strong interest in its surrounding watersports. He played an instrumental role in not only the Rock2Rock race, but also the Hennessey's Paddleboard Series, Catalina Classic and was an essential figure in the waterman community.
"It's tough on all of us. But he had a great weekend and he died doing what he loved to do. After Daly's birthday dinner at the Isthmus, he drove around Cherry Cove in his Zodiac talking to everyone in the harbor and giving them croakies," son Robbie Meistrell said. "Coming home was the longest boat trip of my life. But when I reached the dock, I couldn't go 10 feet without people coming up to me."
For more on legend Bob Meistrell, visit: BodyGlove.com