For Oklahoma sports enthusiasts, the late Aubrey McClendon was a towering figure. McClendon was a swashbuckling capitalist, having started the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, when he was only 29. He made vast sums of money as an early adopter of hydraulic fracturing techniques, otherwise known as “fracking.” He was deemed a “visionary leader” in the oil and gas business, the staple of Oklahoma’s economy. It was clear by any measure that the Oklahoma City native, who returned home after graduating Duke University, was a success.
For those of us who love sports, McClendon gifted the Sooner state with some of our greatest treasures, including the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team. He was part of a group that moved the Seattle SuperSonics to OKC in 2008. And it was pure magic. With numerous playoff appearances and titan players like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and many more, the always exuberant Oklahoma City fans had something to cheer about, as described in a heartwarming piece by the New York Times magazine a number of years ago.
McCleendon’s good deeds span a variety of organizations from the Boys and Girls Club to Oklahoma City’s new Boathouse District, along the Oklahoma River. And, so it was enormously touching when he passed, that those who cherished the boathouse organized a “paddle out” in McClendon’s honor.
The paddle out tradition emerged from the surfing community as a sacred way to honor the life of a fallen surfer. Gathered together in a circle, in the depths of the ocean, they throw flowers in honor of the deceased, all the while sharing meditative silence and remembrances. When in Hawaii, they are accompanied by native chants. This lovely tradition has grown in its popularity, and so at sunrise, some days after McClendon’s death, friends and family gathered at the boathouse to honor their benefactor, for whom the boathouse is now named.