The father of a surfer who died on Woolacombe beach has paid tribute to a son who lived life to the full and passed away doing what he loved.

Woolacombe surfer Neil Molesworth was in his element when in the water. Picture: Drew McDonald PhotographyWoolacombe surfer Neil Molesworth was in his element when in the water. Picture: Drew McDonald Photography

Neil Molesworth, aged 40, died on Sunday, November 8 while surfing as a result of a heart condition he was born with.

The Red Barn employee was well-known in Woolacombe and was known as ‘The Captain’.

After becoming ill in the water he was brought ashore by friends but died shortly afterwards, despite emergency services, the coastguard and the air ambulance rushing to the scene.

A crowd fund for a memorial bench organised by his sister Lisa Webb has already raised more than £6,000 and it is hoped to purchase a beachside defibrillator in his memory too.

Neil Molesworth was well known in Woolacombe and known as 'The Captain'. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth familyNeil Molesworth was well known in Woolacombe and known as 'The Captain'. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth family

In an open letter, his dad Rob said: “My family and I would like to thank the emergency services as well as Neil’s friends who attended to him, especially Wayne and Nick.

“Neil had an operation for a heart defect in 2016. We had been told when he was in his early 20s that his life span was limited and he would probably require a heart transplant.

“He died of natural causes, as a result of this condition, doing what he loved, surfing.”

The letter said Neil was born in Stockton on Tees in 1979 and grew up in Calstock in Cornwall.

Neil Molesowrth was born with a heart defect but he did not let that stop him. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth familyNeil Molesowrth was born with a heart defect but he did not let that stop him. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth family

As a teenager he worked in his grandfather’s cafe, The Captain’s Table at Woolacombe, where he stayed for many years until moving to the Red Barn several years ago.

Rob continued: “He was one of a large family, loved them and was loved by all, his birth siblings, adopted and step siblings. He was about to teach his step nephew to surf, when we went into lockdown.

“He was totally inclusive and embracing of everyone, making everyone feel welcome and valued. He was totally at one with himself, never jealous or needy.

“All our friends, family and neighbours have sent condolences with memories that have made us laugh through the tears. ‘Charming’, ‘roguish’, ‘never coarse or rude’, ‘he was always a gentleman’ and ‘he cooked a mean pasta special’. My mother-in-law adored him as they would sit chatting for hours, Neil promising to marry her!

Neil Molesworth lived life to the full and was always outgoing. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth familyNeil Molesworth lived life to the full and was always outgoing. Picture: Courtesy of the Molesworth family

“Mrs Tina Liddicott (PE teacher at his primary school) remembered him as ‘always giving his best and always putting others before himself’.”

Due to the pandemic his cremation will be a small family affair but a get together is planned for all family and friends for when restrictions allow.

Rob concluded: “We thank everyone who has contributed and for all the messages of love and support.

“Neil you will be forever in our hearts.”

Neil Molesworth loved to surf and was a familiar sight on Woolacombe beach. Picture: Drew McDonald PhotographyNeil Molesworth loved to surf and was a familiar sight on Woolacombe beach. Picture: Drew McDonald Photography

If you would like to donate to the appeal in Neil’s memory, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/neil-molesworth-bench .

Neil Molesworth is delighted with his surfing pictures taken by Drew McDonald. Picture: Drew McDonald PhotographyNeil Molesworth is delighted with his surfing pictures taken by Drew McDonald. Picture: Drew McDonald Photography

Woolacombe surfer Neil Molesworth was in his element when in the water. Picture: Drew McDonald PhotographyWoolacombe surfer Neil Molesworth was in his element when in the water. Picture: Drew McDonald Photography