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Victoria physiotherapist dies while surfing near Tofino

Matthew Jackson was just three days past his 58th birthday when he died near Long Beach
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Matthew Jackson had been employed by Rebalance at Uptown Centre since its opening in 2013. SUBMITTED

Family and friends are mourning a popular Victoria physiotherapist who died suddenly while surfing in Tofino this month.

Matthew Jackson was just three days past his 58th birthday when he died on Nov. 13 near Long Beach.

He had also just celebrated his 40th high school reunion the week before with classmates from Oak Bay High.

“It was so shocking and so sad because he was at such a great place in life … really enjoying his best life,” said classmate Mark Dickinson, who attended the reunion with 50 others at the Victoria Yacht Club and had been texting with Jackson the day before his death.

“We all had a great time at the reunion, so everyone was so sad about the news. It was so abrupt and I know a lot of people are going to really miss him.”

Dickinson and other fellow classmates gathered at Christie’s Carriage House Pub on Nov. 17 to remember Jackson.

Jackson had been surfing with his daughter, Naysa, and fiancée, Wendy Irish, when he died, said Dickinson, but the circumstances of his death are not clear.

The B.C. Coroners Service said the agency was investigating a surfer’s death near Tofino on Nov. 13, but did not provide any detail on cause, citing privacy.

Jackson, who was described as an “outgoing and positive” person, known for a big smile and warm personality, was active as a swimmer and surfer, rock climber, hiker, skier and cyclist.

After obtaining a bachelor of science degree in sports medicine at the University of Victoria, he completed graduate studies in physiotherapy in 1992 at the University of British Columbia.

He continued his training in physiotherapy throughout his career, with courses in orthopedics and manual therapy.

Jackson had been employed by Rebalance at Uptown Centre since its opening in 2013. Before that, he worked at the Cook and Pandora Physiotherapy Clinic.

In his obituary, longtime client Cindy Frame said Jackson was “always compassionate and positive to be around — a great loss for all of us who enjoyed his professionalism and friendship, and a great loss for this world.”

Born in England, Jackson emigrated to Canada with his family in 1968. He attended Monterey Elementary, Glenlyon and Oak Bay.

John Crawford, who taught Jackson at Glenlyon School, called him “a fine young man” in his obituary.

“More recently, he provided exceptional physio for my wife and I,” said Crawford. “In one dry needling session he commented: ‘I never thought I’d be sticking needles in a teacher of mine.’ We shared a laugh which will stay with me forever.”

In a social-media post, former classmate Julia Santucci called the news of Jackson’s sudden passing “heartbreaking.

“I didn’t get to see Matt often, but when I did he had this gift … he made you feel like seeing you was the best part of his day,” she said.

Jackson is survived by his mother, Barbara; sister Deborah; daughter, Naysa; Naysa’s mother, Dawn Harris; his fiance, Wendy Irish; his extended family in England and abroad, and a large network of friends.

A celebration of Jackson’s life will be held at a later date.

The family said people can send a donation if they wish, in lieu of flowers, to Doctors without Borders, or a charity of their choice, in Jackson’s name.

dkloster@timescolonist.com