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Hermosa to Honor Surfing Pioneers

Walk of Fame on pier will recognize local role in the creation of the state's surf culture.

March 29, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

Roger Bacon doesn't surf. He fishes. And he doesn't live in Hermosa Beach, either. He lives in neighboring Redondo Beach.

But for four years, the rather insistent businessman has been spearheading an effort to create a Surfers Walk of Fame in Hermosa Beach.

So what's in it for him? Good karma?

Bacon does happen to have a brother who was a surfer. He also owns substantial property in the area, including a shopping center in Hermosa Beach. He rejects criticism that he launched the project because it might make him more popular or be a lucrative venture some day.

Leaning back in a leather chair at his shopping center office recently, Bacon was clad in a black T-shirt, black velvet-like pants and black cowboy boots. The outfit was not exactly business attire, but definitely not surfing gear either.

He pulled out a certificate of recognition that he had gotten from the mayor. It thanks him for his community service to Hermosa Beach, including his latest project, the Surfers Walk of Fame.

The walk, to be dedicated with a ceremony at the pier today, will consist of bronze plaques cemented into the city pier. One plaque recognizes 16 "pioneer" members of the walk, while seven "charter" members have individual plaques engraved with their name.

The charter members are Bing Copeland, Hap Jacobs, Greg Noll, Mike Purpus, Rick Stoner, Dale Velzy and Dewey Weber.

Constructing the walk cost about $16,000, though $20,000 was raised through corporate sponsorships, Bacon said.

He conferred with current and former surfers to select the honorees, and plans to add new names as he sees fit.

"It's been a hassle," Bacon said. "I've been leaning on the city to get this off the ground."

"I've been working on this since 1999," he has said on many occasions.

"That's Roger," said Hermosa Beach Mayor Sam Edgerton. "He's relentless."

By many accounts, Bacon gets overly excited about what he's doing. This could explain why one of the plaques reads: "Hermosa Beach is the original birthplace of surfing in California."

Many folks would argue with that.

Many cities helped create California's surf culture, said Steve Pezman, co-publisher of the Surfer's Journal. And many cities vie -- Pezman calls it "a lot of arm waving" -- for attention and recognition.

Velzy, who was born and raised in Hermosa Beach, was the first to put a brand on his surfboards, Pezman said. But Hobie Alter was the first to open a surf shop, which was in Dana Point. The Palos Verdes Peninsula had the first surf club. Redondo Beach hosted George Freeth, a well-known Hawaiian surfer, as far back as 1907.

Huntington Beach, a long paddle down the coast, has had its own Surfers Walk of Fame for a decade to celebrate its own rich surf culture. Huntington Beach claims the title Surf City, USA, as does Santa Cruz, far to the north. Both cities have surfing museums, which are popular among local merchants as draws for tourists and their dollars.

To Velzy, 75, it doesn't matter which city did what. To him, California is one long beach.

Hermosa Beach "wasn't the only birthplace," Velzy said. "Huntington Beach is Surf City, Santa Monica is Surf City.... "

Mayor Edgerton, a surfer in his own right, waxes nostalgic when you mention his city's surfing history.

At 46, he is too young to remember when the city's surfers were at their height.

But he's adamant that no other place compares with Hermosa Beach, and that it's a good home for the Walk of Fame.

"There's nobody else that you can match in the same breath," he said of the surfers being honored. "These really were the original McCoys, and it's amazing that they all have a Hermosa Beach connection."

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