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HUNTINGTON BEACH SURFING WALK OF FAME : A Swell Set

6 Pioneers Will Ride the Waves Forever in Sidewalk Tribute

August 09, 1997|STEVE CARNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Surfing used to be illegal in Surf City.

"Back in 1956, they didn't want surfing in this town. Man, that was a bad element," said Gordie Duane, who got the first citation for surfing then.

But the passage of 40 years has turned Duane from criminal to local hero, and on Friday, he was one of six surfing pioneers inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.

"They call it local hero. I think it's more like local rebel," Duane, 67, said.

The city's now obsolete ordinance against surfing was passed, he remembered, after a council member's relative was conked by a wayward board. To make an example of Duane, then-chief lifeguard Vince Moorhouse gave him the first ticket under the new law.

"It was a $10 ticket with a $1 assessment for driver's education," Duane remembered.

But times have changed. Mayor Ralph H. Bauer and current City Council members applauded with about 250 surfing fans Friday, as granite markers to Duane and the others were unveiled on the sidewalk outside Jack's Surfboards at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

"I think it's important everyone realize surfing has a heritage and a history," said South African Shaun Tomson, 41, who, with the others, also got etched glass trophies in various categories. "It isn't just about being 18 years old. I feel I'm just as stoked as I was when I first stood up [on a surfboard] 32 years ago."

Also inducted were Hobart "Hobie" Alter and Rick Griffin, in the surfing culture category, which honors those who helped create and define surfing culture; Linda Benson, in the woman-of-the-year category; and surf pioneer Dale Velzy, in the category for those 50 and older who achieved fame in the days before major championships.

Duane's category, local hero, includes those who graduated from high school or lived for 10 years in Huntington Beach. Honorees in the surf champions category, like Tomson, must have held world championships or world-class titles specific to Huntington Beach.

"It's awesome to meet people who are such role models," said Jessica Markovitz 16, a raven-haired surfer from Sunset Beach, excitedly waiting for Benson's autograph. "Maybe one day I'll be a famous surfer like them, and get my name on the sidewalk."

The annual Walk of Fame, which now honors 21 surfers, began in 1994. But Jack's Surfboards owner Mike Abdelmuti said he had begun planning it when he opened his shop in 1970.

"This is history," he said. "We're all going to go, but these things in the sidewalk, they're going to stay."

Benson noted that the first time she came to Huntington Beach was in 1959, for the first big surfing contest on the coast.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be coming back here to do something like this," she said. "I feel so very lucky."

Friday's induction was the prelude to this weekend's finals of the G-Shock U.S. Open of Surfing, the mainland's largest surfing competition, held just south of the municipal pier. City officials expect about 350,000 people will attend the weeklong Open.

Duane said he once told his nemesis, Moorhouse, "Someday you're going to see more surfers in town than swimmers."

"Gordie, it will never happen," Moorhouse replied.

"Well," Duane said with a smile, "it did."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

New Inductees

Hobart "Hobie" Alter

Alter, 63, who opened a surfboard shaping shop in Dana Point in 1953, was one of the first to use foam, fiberglass and polyurethane for boards. He also created the Hobie Cat catamaran.

Linda Benson

Considered by some the top female surfer of all time, Benson, 53, of Encinitas won the first U.S. championship in Huntington Beach in 1959.

Gordon "Gordie" Duane

Duane, 67, originally from Compton, opened the first surf shop in north coastal Orange County in 1956, at the foot of the Huntington Beach Pier.

Rick Griffin

Griffin, who died in 1991, developed a cartoon character Murph the Surf, who personified the surfing lifestyle and first appeared on Surfer magazine's cover in 1962.

Shaun Tomson

Tomson, 41, of South Africa had one of the longest professional careers in the sport. He was world champion in 1977, and until 1995 was the oldest surfer to win a men's tour event.

Dale Velzy

Velzy, 69, of Hermosa Beach opened his surf shop in 1953 and refined smaller, lighter boards. By 1960 his business was the world's largest surfboard manufacturer.

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