A wake was held Friday for Dylan Smith, who saved the lives of his neighbors during Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Dylan Smith loved the water from an early age, standing on a boogie board.
He was raised surfing in Puerto Rico and in the Rockaways, where he and his brother Jake were lifeguards.
"Jake's been a rock," said Tom Moore, Smith's uncle. "Jake's been terrific, really being strong for his parents."
Smith saved at least a half-dozen lives during Hurricane Sandy.
"Told my mom I have to go, and I grabbed my surfboard and jumped out the window," he said at the time.
About five feet of water flooded his Belle Harbor neighborhood. Several homes caught fire. Dylan and a man named Mike McDonnell tied a rope around a tree and a banister. People magazine called them heroes of 2012.
"Ironically, saving people with the surfboard and then passing surfing," Moore said. "It's very difficult to really get your hands around that and get your arms around that and really make any sense of it."
At his wake friday, his family called the 23-year-old's death surfing in Puerto Rico last weekend senseless. His father asked people to wear board shorts and flip flops to honor him.
"You talk about the Rockaway hero and all that stuff, but that's not the way to remember him," Moore said. "It was his free spirit, his love of life. That's why we're wearing this today. Nobody's surprised that he was a hero. That's just, we expected that, no problem. That was going to happen. He was a great kid."
In Puerto Rico Friday night, Dylan's friends held a paddle out, leaving flowers at sea in his honor. His funeral is planned for Saturday.