Laguna Beach nonprofit founder dies in bicycle crash

Norman Rest, 73, of Laguna Beach died following a bicycle crash on Monday. Photo courtesy of Michelle Highberg

A Laguna Beach man died following an E-bike collision near Canyon View Drive and Buena Vista Way on Monday, authorities said.

Laguna Beach police and paramedics were dispatched around 5:44 p.m. after receiving a report of a downed bicyclist. Norman Rest, 73, was found bleeding significantly after apparently colliding with a dumpster, city spokesperson Cassie Walder said.

As paramedics attempted to tend to Rest’s injuries, he went into full cardiac arrest and was taken to Providence Mission Hospital Mission Viejo. He was pronounced dead at the hospital and an investigation is ongoing, Walder said.

“At this time, there are no witnesses to the collision, and it does not appear that any other vehicles or persons were involved in the collision,” Walder said.

Investigators believe Rest was riding his E-bike without a light, according to a prepared statement.

Rest and his wife, Debra Kottke, co-founded the Lido Paddle Project in September 2020 to serve veterans and first responders by promoting mental wellness through stand-up paddle boarding.

Norman Rest teaching paddling in Newport Beach in September. Photo courtesy of Michelle Highberg

Born in Pasadena, Rest moved to Newport Beach resident in 1960, when his family purchased a weekend and summer home, according to his online biography.

After being a teenage “tree house master”, Rest built a three-story home for his young family in Top of the World when he was 21 years old. The build launched Rest into a life-long career of building that included 12 Top of the World homes as well as projects in several states and other countries.

Aside from his wife and children Chris and Elizabeth, Rest’s greatest passions include playing and restoring stringed instruments, surfing, downhill skiing, classic cars, E-biking, and paddling.

Rest and his father started the Lido Sailing Club more than 40 years ago. The Via Lido property is now home to Windward Sailing Club and Lido Paddle Sports.

Bobby Friedman, co-owner of Lido Paddle Sports, met his future business partner installing tile on a home Rest was building in Back Bay.

“There’s nothing Norm couldn’t do or figure out,” Friedman said. “I’m hurting for Debbie.”

Friedman recalled Rest’s work developing a community in Costa Rica from the ground up. He’ll also fondly remember his friend agreeing to cover the cost of paddle sessions for veterans and first responders who showed up at their shop.

“I’ve never seen Norm enjoying his life this much as I have in the last six months,” Friedman said.

Top of the World resident Michelle Highberg was recruited by Rest last year to serve as the budding nonprofit’s chief development officer. The nonprofit has hosted more than 300 free paddling sessions for veterans and first responders.

“When I first met Norman, I knew my life would never be the same,” Highberg wrote in an email. “Immediately, I felt the warmth of his heart. In time, I watched his new purpose grow through the transformational joys of giving. Norman treasured people, relationships, integrity, and the truth.”

Highberg said she plans to regroup to Kottke in the coming weeks to chart a course for the Paddle Project’s new future and is hopeful the nonprofit will be Rest’s legacy.

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  1. This is indeed tragic. Norm was a man who inhaled and loved his life so much. He had so many gifts and was an unstoppable force of nature. My deepest sympathies for Debra.

  2. Les please don’t politicize this and blame the city. Though I agree we need more safe biking infrastructure, it appears this tragedy had nothing to do with city negligence.

  3. A very Generous and charismatic gentleman, Norm was contagious with his laughter and brilliant character and will missed by all who met him.

  4. This is very sad and a tragic loss of a good man. I agree with Billy Fried that this should not be an opportunity to blame the city for an accident that appears, from what I read, to have occurred because of the lack of a light on a bike after dark colliding with a dumpster on a street. Terrible accidents happen. Laguna Beach has lost a generous, vibrant citizen. Let’s leave it at that, at least for now.

  5. My condolences and prayers to the Rest family.

    Andrew and Les, thank you for your sharing your thoughts on safety. I agree. Fact is, Laguna Beach streets are not designed for safe road sharing by cyclists nor the growing number of ebike riders. The City of Laguna Beach must implement a high-profile road bike use/safety awareness campaign and an active public safety involvement program in our city. Period. It is overdue.

  6. Barbara/Billy- no one is blaming the city. Due to the increase of ebikes (residents and tourists) on our city streets and on trails, sidewalks (although illegal) and public street uses at speeds regular bikes cannot go, addressing it is the responsible thing for us to do. We can’t change this tragic accident nor the loss of a beautiful locals life but we can all work to increase the need fir bike safety skills and local traveling navigation awareness and help save others. Thanks.

  7. Let’s examine the sum total of Mr. Feelgood Fried’s contribution to bike safety in Laguna Beach. His organization “Livable Streets Laguna” had three founding members that disbanded before the ink dried at the Independent.

    The next time Billy has a brain-fart about bike safety, I’ll wear a mask.

  8. Clearly, Norman Rest was a wonderful member of our community. May his wife find peace in knowing so many people cared about him and appreciated his altruism. * Full stop *


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