My brush with greatness: Remembering Wayne Coombs, 1949-2012

Like the imposing Tikis that he carved for more than 40 years, Cocoa Beach’s Wayne Coombs was a larger-than-life figure with a mischievous bent and a style all his own. Coombs, whose distinctive “Florida style” of carving became his trademark and made him one of the modern Tiki revival’s most well-known and beloved figures, passed away on Sept. 4 at age 62.

A postcard promoting Wayne Coombs, the artist

Wayne is believed to have suffered a heart attack at his studio. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Beki. A celebration will be held in his honor on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. at his Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach.

Originally from Miami, Wayne moved with his family to the Space Coast at age 14. He was a rambunctious artist and free spirit from an early age. His first gallery, Free and Creative, opened in the mid-’60s and he began carving Tikis in 1967. He and Beki founded Mai Tiki Studio and Gallery in 1973.

Over the years, Wayne became a fixture not only in Brevard County and throughout Florida, where his Tikis are ubiquitous, but also in the worldwide surfing and Tiki scenes. The studio and gallery became a local attraction, and his fame grew large enough to match his imposing figure and robust personalty.

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