A Surfing Send-off for Bro-Fro

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 2, 2024

Richard Silverman, better known to Morro Bay residents and visitors alike as Brother Frog, an artist, poet, story teller and free spirit who died in January at age 81. Photo courtesy EBSC

Local surfers in Morro Bay gathered March 8 for a celebration of life and paddle out tribute to Richard Silverman, who died sometime before.

Silverman, or “Brother Frog” as he was known and as he called himself, died in January at age 81. Bro-Fro was a free-spirited fellow, a hermit really, who lived for many years in Morro Bay, at times in vehicles or the woods along Morro Creek, and then on a little boat out in Morro Bay Harbor. 

He had a number of pet dogs who lived their entire lives alongside Bro-Fro, living free and getting along by the seat of his sagging pants, doing what it took to survive. 

He was a talented artist and hand-painted surfing scenes, usually with a pretty girl on a long board, onto T-shirts that he sold down by the Rock out of an old van for a “$20 donation.”

Photo shows the paddle out for Brother Frog on March 8, attended by local surfer bros of Bro-Fro, celebrating the colorful life of a free spirit with a water canon salute by the Harbor Patrol. Photo courtesy Susan Beauchemin

The Estero Bay Surf Club organized the March 8 paddle for Brother Frog, with wave riders from up and down the state drawn to town for the 31st Annual Big, Bad & Ugly Surf Contest that was held the next day at Morro Rock, a place where Brother Frog was a fixture.

The program for the Big Ugly contest had an article on Brother Frog, and we’ve gleaned tidbits from that unattributed article. Brother Frog came to town in the early 1990s at age 50 and immediately became a prominent figure on the waterfront and at Morro Rock. 

“His connection with the locals, tourists, vagabonds, and castaways was unmatched; with a steady stream of poetry, artwork, games and one-liners, and wisdom to share. Bro Fro was one of a kind.”

On the club’s website, they posted a photo of the paddle out and ring of honor ceremony out in the bay by Target Rock. There were dozens of comments and blessings posted for Brother Frog, among them:

“Cemented in M.B. history! You are a legend Brother Frog! Thank you for sharing your kind soul with everyone. Aloha.” 

“His T-shirts were my favorite!! Authentic art he would paint by hand, with love and sell for a $20 donation. A legend in my eyes.” 

And, “Our Brother from another mother will never be forgotten. RIP BROTHER FROG.”

This reporter met Brother Frog hanging out down by Morro Rock one day way back in the mid-1990s, when I was a waterfront beat reporter at the Sun Bulletin Newspaper. 

He tried to sell me a T-shirt, and I would have bought it, but I had no money on me (common in those days).

In the early 2000s, after Duke Energy bought the power plant, they brought in the Conservation Corps kids to clear brush from the Morro Creek channel, and got a little too close to Bro-Fro’s secret camp nestled in the woods.

I was sitting outside the office having a smoke break, when he came storming up waving his arms, wild hair blowing in the wind, and started shouting, “They’re cuttin’ down the trees, man, the trees!” 

I told him that I had heard the work crew discovered some bones in the woods and the coroner had determined they were ancient Indian remains, so they called in an archaeologist and…

He interrupted, “Nobody gives a damn about a bunch of old bones! They’re cuttin’ the trees, man! The treeeees!”

I advised him to write a letter to the editor to complain publicly, which he did, by hand, with myself given the task of transcribing his scribbling. And we printed it in that week’s paper. He let Duke have it good.

When the copies hit the street, one of Duke Energy’s guys at the power plant emailed me and asked, “Ok, who the hell is Brother Frog?”

I explained the situation with cutting of the trees, and it wasn’t long after that, that Brother Frog moved out of the woods and onto a boat, “Native Dancer.”

He was a long-time live aboard on the bay, rowing a dinghy back and forth from shore to his boat moored off Tidelands Park, some senior dog faithful by his side. 

He went through several dogs over the years, getting them from animal shelters and caring for them until they died of old age.

Brother Frog was born in New York on May 18, 1942, according to the surf club article, and raised on the music of the Beatniks. 

Among the many chapters in his life, the article reports, was owning a health food store in Key West during the 1960s; owning a farm in Telluride, Colo., in the 1970s; and running an art supply store in San Francisco in the ‘80s. But he called Morro Bay home.

The article concludes with, “He was a staple in our small coastal town and a strong part of making this town unique.” And, “He lived life the way he wanted up until the very end. He lives on through his stories, quotes and most of all, his T-shirts.” 

Rest in peace Brother Frog — our brother from another mother. — Neil Farrell

You May Also Like…

4-H Club’s Been Busy

4-H Club’s Been Busy

Members of the Morro Bay 4-H Club Leadership Group recently did a cleanup project at Morro Bay High School. The kids...

Celebrating Lionesses and Dogs

Celebrating Lionesses and Dogs

The Cayucos Lioness Club’s Annual Easter Dog Parade saw pooches of every size and type and their best friends gather...