‘He passed doing exactly what he loved’

LIHUE — Those who knew Bobby Tipple will tell you that the water was his second home.

“He has been lucky to live in a lot of great places, and usually revolving around some sort of a great ocean coastline because he loved the water and surfing,” Seth Womble, a longtime friend and Hanapepe resident, said on Wednesday. “He was an avid hunter, loved going camping and spending time in the wilderness, and was very respectful of the land and the aina.” 

When it came to caring for people, those closest to Tipple say the Hanapepe resident was one of a kind. 

“He was well-loved by a solid group of friends based on being one of the most devoted people who I know,” said Womble, who first met Tipple through mutual friends nearly 15 years ago, when they both started surfing at the same beach in Florida, Tipple’s home state. “He was kind of a no frills guy who could see through the things that people put up like fronts or walls. We was a true friend and was very devoted to them, his family and his new wife, who he just married several weeks ago.”

Billy Grace said he had only known Tipple for about a year but described him as being “the friend that everybody in this world should have.” 

“I haven’t known him for that long, but for the short time that I have known him, it seemed like we knew each other for a long time,” Grace said. “Bobby was just a really, really nice guy — a quiet, humble guy. When I say nice, I mean he was just willing to give anything and everything that he had at any moment no matter the cost.”

And that is how some of his friends would like people to remember him.

Kauai Police Department officials on Wednesday identified Tipple, born in 1978, as the scuba diver who was reported missing early Monday morning after becoming separated from friends during a night diving trip in waters near Koloa Landing in Poipu. 

Search crews, consisting of 14 U.S. Coast Guard and Kauai Fire Department personnel, recovered Tipple’s dive light in shallow waters several hours later.

Tipple’s body was discovered shortly afterward about a mile offshore from Brennecke’s Beach in Poipu. 

Law enforcement officials did not release Tipple’s cause of death as of press time on Wednesday. 

“He passed doing exactly what he loved and wouldn’t have it any other way,” Womble said. 

Before moving to Kauai nearly two years ago, Tipple spent some time on Oahu, the Big Island and Southern California.

Tipple formerly worked at Outfitters Kauai but began a career in organic farming recently, Womble said.

Tipple, he recalled, “had a funny way of being intimidating toward people just because of his exterior.”

“He had a bit of a gray beard, short hair, scars on his face, tattoos and things like that, so he kind of had that scary convict, almost, look to him,” Womble said with a laugh. “But everybody who knew him, and he cared to get to know, knew how loyal and devoted he was to anybody — there isn’t anything that he wouldn’t have done for people who he knew.” 

Grace agreed and said Tipple was one of those friends who would call and offer to help you fix the tire on your car rather than offer to meet you after it has been fixed.   

“In my circle of friends, I’ve known people for 15 or 20 years who I call my friends, and I’ve only known Bobby for a year, but he means more than some of the friends who I’ve had for 20 years — he’s just that kind of guy,” Grace said. “I will definitely miss that guy.” 

Tipple’s friends are accepting donations to help defray some of his funeral expenses and support his wife, Megan.

Donations can be made at: http://www.gofundme.com/dx9p3c. 

Nearly a third of their $30,000 goal, totaling $9,695, was reached by Wednesday afternoon.

A public memorial celebration of Tipple’s life, consisting of a paddle out onto the water, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor.

Organizers are asking attendees to bring their own surfboard, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or other flotation device with them.

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