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Legendary Cocoa Beach surfer Tabeling dies at age 65

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Former Cocoa Beach surfing star Mike Tabeling, one of the legends of East Coast surfing in the 1960s, passed away Saturday night in Mexico at the age of 65, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.

According to reports, he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of Renal Cell Carcinoma/Papillary II, a type of kidney cancer.

Tabeling had come through Brevard County earlier this year to greet well-wishers. Slater met him at Coconuts and took him to his surf shop.

"We had fun," Slater said. "He was telling everyone how to live their life to the fullest ... he told me he was going to say hi to my father (who passed away in 2002)."

Tabeling competed in the World Championships in 1966, 1968 and 1970 and was the first East Coast surfer to land on the cover of "Surfer" magazine in 1971.

He also was the runner-up in the 1968 United States Surfing Championships, and was one of the pioneers of East Coast surfing fame with notables such as Claude Codgen and Gary Propper.

"Definitely a legend," said Melbourne Beach surfer Matt Kechele. "He carved a path, for sure, for many East Coast kids and helped put East Coast (surfing) in the '60s on the map."

Tabeling was one of the original group of inductees into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame in 1996.

In addition to operating a factory for his Mike Tabeling surfboards, the tall, wiry surfer was at the forefront of the shortboard revolution on the East Coast, demonstrating his prowess on one of the first twin-fin fish board designs. He later helped popularize the Lis fish design.

He surfed boards as small as 5-foot-2, even though he stood 6-4.

Tabeling was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a Navy pilot, and began surfing in Cocoa Beach in 1962, at age 12.