TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — The man who loved life and brought surfing to Treasure Island, Joe Nuzzo, will be honored on Thursday after passing away two weeks ago at the age of 78.

"Joe was always about having fun," said longtime friend Gail Gilchrist. "Living your life and going on an adventure." 

What You Need To Know

  • Joe Nuzzo, 78, passed away on Sept. 23

  • Nuzzo opened the first surf shop in Tampa Bay 

  • Paddle-out ceremony for Nuzzo begins at 6 p.m. at the Sunset Beach Pavilion in Treasure Island

Nuzzo opened the first surf shop in the Bay Area back in 1966. For the next 55 years, he owned and operated the Suncoast Surf Shop in Treasure Island. 

"He just knew that coming from California that he could make surfing work here and he did," said Gilchrist. ​"He knew where all the waves would break and where all the secret spots were."

Gilchrist first met Nuzzo while negotiating over a pair of sunglasses at his surf shop.

"We went back and forth for awhile and eventually he said, 'Alright, I'll give you a little discount,'" she said. "I still have them all these years later." 

Nuzzo died at home the next month, on Sept. 23. Gilchrist is thankful that they got to spend Joe's last couple of months together. ​​One month before Nuzzo died, Gilchrist took him to see some live music in Pass-A-Grille.

"He actually stayed 3 hours in the sun," she said. "Then he danced a little at the end." ​

Nuzzo talked about buying a camper and driving off into the sunset. "Well, maybe not today," Gilchrist said.

The longtime friend said the day Nuzzo died, she got a call that a camper was for sale.

"It was exactly what Joe and I had talked about. So that afternoon, I bought the van and I'm going on Joe-ventures," she said. "He would be proud. I also sold my company last week, so I can really go on Joe-ventures and live the life that Joe wanted us to live." 

On Thursday, Nuzzo will be honored during a paddle-out ceremony that begins at 6 p.m. at the Sunset Beach Pavilion in Treasure Island.