BMCM Dave Duren: A Surfman Legend

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Master Chief Petty Officer Dave Duren is considered a legend by many, and his legacy is carried on by those who strive for and earn the Coast Guard’s surfman qualification.

Petty Officer David Duren, a boatswain's mate at Coast Guard station Tillamook Bay, operates a Station Tillamook Bay motor lifeboat in the surf near Girabaldi, Ore., circa 1973. Duren is recognized within the Coast Guard surfman community as one of the most skilled boat drivers of his generation, and his legacy is carried on by today's generation of Coast Guard surfmen. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Petty Officer David Duren, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard station Tillamook Bay, operates a Station Tillamook Bay motor lifeboat in the surf near Girabaldi, Ore., circa 1973. Duren is recognized within the Coast Guard surfman community as one of the most skilled boat drivers of his generation, and his legacy is carried on by today’s generation of Coast Guard surfmen. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Nicknamed “Big Wave,” Duren retired from the Coast Guard as a master chief petty officer in 1993. He was a Coast Guardsman first, a boatswain’s mate second and a surfman third. His legacy is as a surfman, but to those that knew him best, he was a Coast Guardsman through and through.

Among many accomplishments, Duren was the recipient of two Coast Guard Medals, the Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award, and while under his watch as officer-in-charge, personnel at Station Depoe Bay where recipients of 24 medals between 1979 and 1983.

Duren’s peers considered him an outstanding boat driver who operated with common sense and a great respect for the sea. He never asked anything of his crew that he hadn’t already done or was willing to do at the time.

“If I had two words to describe Dave Duren, it would be leadership and loyalty,” said retired Chief Petty Officer Glen Butler, boatswain’s mate and surfman. “When it came down to down and dirty hardcore search and rescue, you couldn’t find anybody better.”

He lived by the Creed of the United States Coast Guardsman, and he was said to have read the creed to every newly reported member of his unit, so they knew what he expected of them as their officer-in-charge.

The creed reads in part:

“I am a proud to be a United States Coast Guardsman.

I revere that long line of expert seamen who by their devotion to duty and sacrifice of self have made it possible for me to be a member of a service honored and respected, in peace and war, throughout the world.”

“If you read that and understand what those words mean, that is exactly how he ran his station, that is how he lived his life, that is what he expected out of his crew,” said Butler. “Nothing more, nothing less, he certainly led by example.”

Service photo of Seaman David Duren circa 1965. Duren retired from the Coast Guard as a master chief petty officer in 1993 after 28 years of service mostly along the Pacific coastline. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Service photo of Seaman David Duren circa 1965. Duren retired from the Coast Guard as a master chief petty officer in 1993 after 28 years of service mostly along the Pacific coastline. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Duren served in the Coast Guard for 28 years, many of those years along the Pacific coastline. His biggest mark was left as a surfman and officer-in-charge at units like those in Depoe Bay and Coos Bay, Oregon, where he served multiple tours. At the time of his retirement, Duren guessed he had saved 30 people by his own hands, not counting people who were saved while he was a boat crewmember.

The surfman community is small, and because of that most surfmen can trace their training lineage much like a family tree.

“The surfmen that I trained directly under, John Dunn and Wayne Marshall were in essence trained by Dave,” said retired Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Saindon, surfman # 223. “So he was kind of a legend in my world growing up as a surfman.”

As a break-in surfman at Station Depoe Bay, Saindon always had Dunn and Marshall by his side and received all the practical training, knowledge and skills from them. He also received after-hours training from Duren through sea stories while Duren tended bar at the Sea Hag in Depoe Bay.

“What was impressed upon me was that a surfman is more who you are, not what you are,” said Saindon. “The crew and the guys you worked with had to trust you on the beach just as much as they trusted you out on the water.”

As Saindon progressed in his career and became an officer-in-charge and started qualifying surfmen, he took it upon himself to pass on the history of Dave Duren and John Dunn.

Petty Officer David Duren, a boatswain's mate at Coast Guard Station Coos Bay, operates a motor lifeboat in the surf near Coos Bay, Ore., circa 1969. Duren is recognized within the Coast Guard surfman community as one of the most skilled boat drivers of his generation, and his legacy is carried on by today's generation of Coast Guard surfmen. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Petty Officer David Duren, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Coos Bay, operates a motor lifeboat in the surf near Coos Bay, Ore., circa 1969. Duren is recognized within the Coast Guard surfman community as one of the most skilled boat drivers of his generation, and his legacy is carried on by today’s generation of Coast Guard surfmen. U.S. Coast Guard photo

“I found an old bootcamp picture of Dave and hung it above my desk at all three of my officer-in-charge jobs,” said Saindon. “I made sure that all the surfmen breaking in knew a little about him because they were learning from me what I learned from John who learned it from Dave. I wanted them to understand and appreciate the history of where they came from as a surfman.”

The Coast Guard’s surfman community knows who and what Dave Duren was and stood for. They know him as a legend. They know him as a surfman. They know him as a Coast Guardsman. They counted him a friend. Dave Duren passed away in March 2016,, but his life and legacy will continue to carry on because of the impact he had on those around him.

“His actual legacy is going to be in the people that are still serving today,” said Butler. “He set standards for a lot of people to follow. I think that if I took the time to look around at the different commanding officers and officers-in charge up and down the coast, I would find a direct link to the way they do business to the way he did business.”

Seaman David Duren works aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, homeported in Honolulu, during his time stationed on the cutter from 1965 to 1967. After serving aboard the Kukui, Duren became a heavy weather coxswain, later designated as a surfman, all along the Pacific coastline. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Seaman David Duren works aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, homeported in Honolulu, during his time stationed on the cutter from 1965 to 1967. After serving aboard the Kukui, Duren became a heavy weather coxswain, later designated as a surfman, all along the Pacific coastline. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

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