Seventeen years after losing Jay, Kim Moriarity Wildey is taking her foundation to the next level

By Haven Livingston

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Kim holding the Jay Moriarity Merge4 socks (Merge4/Cindi Busenhart).

On June 15, 2001 professional surfer Jay Moriarity drowned while free diving in the Indian Ocean off the coast of an island in the Maldives. At the young age of 22, when most surfers are freewheeling their way through life, Jay was becoming legendary. From his courage at taking the first full wipe-out at Mavericks to his friendly smiles in the line-up, Jay had a following long before the days of Instagram. His death left a deep wound in the hearts of many, but most of all it dealt a devastating blow to his wife of barely a year, Kim.

In spite of her pain, Kim Moriarity dug deep into her heart and found a way to shine Jay’s love back out into the world. Seventeen years later she continues to lead a movement of compassion based on the legacy that Jay left behind. The Jay Moriarity Foundation (JMF) is a nonprofit organization grounded in the principles of love and kindness that Jay was best known for.

Starting out as high school sweethearts, Kim and Jay Moriarity were married in 2000 at ages 24 and 22, respectively. Their life together was full of play and giving back to the community. With the ocean as their greatest playground, they spent time fishing, paddling and beach running together. Both surfed for Team O’Neill and coached surf camps in Europe. They were active in the community group Pack Your Trash. While Jay was gaining popularity in the surfing world with equal parts surfing prowess, kindness and positivity, Kim was out of the limelight as a local hero in their hometown of Santa Cruz. She was training to be a firefighter/EMT and volunteered as a coach for the Soquel High School surf team. As a couple their greatest goals were to enjoy life together and make the world a better place.

When Jay died, Kim was cut loose from her mooring. Adrift and uncomfortable in her own skin, she was thrust into the spotlight in Jay’s absence.

Days after his death, hundreds of people gathered at Pleasure Point near the Moriarity’s home for a surfer’s style farewell paddle-out. The number of people shocked Kim, but what surprised her more was how Jay’s spirit broke down the barriers between people and moved them towards a common goodwill.

“Seeing everyone so distraught with their faces soaked in tears of grief and shock that he was not physically with us anymore, and to watch enemies embrace each other and people who had never even met him be brought to their knees with sadness, my heart and soul knew then that Jay had left me with a bigger mission,” Kim told ASJ during an interview for this article. Kim has since remarried and now goes by the name Kim Moriarity Wildey.

That day was a catalyst for turning a devastating and unimaginable tragedy into a positive movement. Losing Jay brought Kim to her knees and swallowed her with grief, but it never stopped her from helping others. “I started planting seeds of love and light in those open wounds,” she said. Three months later she created the Jay Moriarity Foundation with the purpose of making the world a better place for everyone.

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Prone paddlers at the start of the Jay Race, Capitola (JMF collection).

At the one-year anniversary of Jay’s death, the Santa Cruz Paddleboard Union held the inaugural Jay Race paddle event as a celebration of Jay’s life. At the time, Kim wasn’t excited about the race. She was still dealing with her life being turned inside out. But the event proved to be a genuine gathering of the community, and within a few years she was an integral part of it.

When Hollywood came knocking to make a movie about Jay’s life and his quest as a 16-year-old to surf Mavericks, Kim wasn’t keen on answering. Going public about their life was never her goal, and she feared glamorization of his story. Eventually she agreed and worked closely with the film producers, but her involvement was aimed at keeping the story and the actors as true as possible. “With Chasing Mavericks, my goal was that I wanted to reach people’s   heart. I wanted it to inspire them to be better people, because that’s what Jay was all about,” she said.

During the nine years of making the movie she continually relived her life with Jay. “I wasn’t able to fully mourn his loss until after the movie was released in 2012,” she said. To this day, messages continue to roll into her inbox from around the world about how Chasing Mavericks changed peoples’ lives for the better. And for Kim, that makes it all worth it.

This is the essence of Kim Moriarity Wildey; if she can do something that will help others she will, even when it is a sacrifice to herself. She is the kind of person who feels like your best friend five minutes after meeting her. She genuinely cares about everyone. “I bleed red too,” she says in an effort to convey the feeling that we are all one. “At the end of the day we are all in this together.”

The popularity of Chasing Mavericks infused the Jay Moriarity Foundation with a rush of energy. Suddenly the Jay Race was on the international paddleboard race map. The JMF took over running the event and it became a substantial fundraiser for the organization. For the second consecutive year, the 2018 Jay Race will be a USA Paddleboard team championship qualifier in the distance race on stock paddleboards. It will also be held on what would have been Moriarity’s 40th birthday.

Proceeds from the Jay Race and the JMF benefit local Junior Lifeguard programs, Oceans of Hope and the Angel Warriors for Kids.

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Kim with the kids at the Jay Race — the mini Jay Racers were all wet and so was Kim from all the hugs! (Howard “Boots” McGhee).

Through the rush of attention, Kim stays true to herself. The kids obstacle course at the Jay Race is still her favorite part and she’s intent on keeping a family focus on the event. When Polly Sirles and Michelle Marlow joined Kim and her team two years ago, they started a program through the JMF focused on helping families that have medically fragile children or parents, called Angel Warriors for Kids (AW4K).

In 2017, AW4K teamed up with Cops Care Cancer Foundation along with private donors to adopt 51 families and supplied them with their Christmas wishes. AW4K provides practical needs for families that other organizations don’t provide. Kim puts in sweat equity alongside other volunteers to do things like sterilize houses so sick kids can come home from the hospital, supply new tires to a vehicle that transports kids to medical treatments, and run errands for families in need.

In addition, the JMF is in the process of implementing an anti-bullying program in schools sharing Jay’s life story as a catalyst for positive change.

There is no end to Kim’s altruism. She always knew she would spend her life in the service of others, she just never knew it would look like this. “I’m hard wired for helping others,” she said. “I can’t help but want to reach out, jump in and make people’s lives easier.”  She is the truest living example of the motto, “Live like Jay.” Not because she is like Jay, but because she is true to herself and embodies courage, compassion and kindness.

“Jay set a great example of how to be a better and more loving human being,” Kim said. “It can be as simple as smiling and saying hello to someone. Holding a door open for someone and finding ways to help each other and our communities. It’s all about making human connections and  truly, just genuinely caring about everyone and everything around you.”

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Jay Race poster (JMF collection).

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Kim and Frosty at the Jay Race (Kim’s personal collection).

Kim Moriarity Wildey

Kim with husband Murphy Wildey and Gayle Brubaker in front of the JMF booth at the Pleasure Point Street Fair (Michelle Marlow).

Registration for the 2018 Jay Race is now open. Be a part of this incredible event and fundraiser on what would have been Jay Moriarity’s 40th birthday.