Cecil Lear, 1930-2022

The East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame is saddened to announce the passing of Cecil Lear at 91 years of age. Cecil most recently participated in the Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2022 into the Hall of Fame at Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.

Cecil was born in 1930 in Irvington, New Jersey and raised in Caldwell, NJ before moving to Belmar, NJ in 1946. In 1952 Cecil graduated from Drew University with a BA in Economics and worked mostly in advertising sales during his professional career, which included a stint working for Petersen’s Surfing magazine in the early 1960s. Several years after moving to Belmar, Cecil took up surfing and thereafter began his dedication to better surfing for East Coast surfers and beyond.

Cecil was co-founder of the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) along with Rudy Huber and served as its Competition Director from 1967-70. From 1971 to 2017 he was the ESA’s Secretary and Historian, providing invaluable advice to the organization’s Board as it developed into the largest surfing competition organization in the world, where it developed many champions including 4x World Champion Lisa Andersen, 3x World Champion Frieda Zamba and who many consider the greatest surfer of all time, 11x World Champion Kelly Slater.

In 1996 he co-founded the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame along with Greg “Da Bull” Noll, and served as its president from then until 2017, when he stepped aside to become President Emeritus while still retaining a key position on the Board. He is also a member of the Hall of Fame’s initial Class of 1996 alongside many of the great pioneers of East Coast Surfing. Cecil is also a member of the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Long before his passing, both organizations launched the Cecil Lear President’s Award to honor individuals whose leadership and mentorship helped to advance New Jersey and East Coast Surfing.

In 1969 Cecil was given the Surfer magazine, Surfer’s Cup award. In 1974 he received the coveted Nancy Katin Recognition Award, and in 2015 Lear was presented the Surfing Heritage And Cultural Center (SHACC) prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award during a formal ceremony held at The Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

In October 2021, Lear was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfers Walk of Fame under the Surf Culture category along with his mentor, Lewis Earl “Hoppy” Swarts, who founded the United States Surfing Association, USSA, in the early 1960s, and who advised Cecil on launching the ESA.

Lear will always be remembered for his lifetime of dedication to better the sport of surfing for East Coast surfers and surfers everywhere. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary Lou, and two daughters, Nancy Lear, who resides in Dallas, Texas, and Jeanne Peck, who lives in Michigan.

The East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Board of Directors sends its deepest sympathies to the Lear Family.

Aloha and much respect, Cecil.

Photo Credits: Tom Dugan / ESM , Bruce Chisner, Mike Vuocolo, Dick Graham, Joe McGovern, Laurin Walker, Mez / ESM, Roger Scruggs, Courtesy Lear Family


Hall of Famers Honored

ECSHOF Hall of Famers Inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame

Each inductee receives a beautiful engraved 18″ square granite stone cemented onto the sidewalk or wall outside Jack’s Surfboards across from the Huntington Pier

It is no mystery why Huntington Beach, California trademarked the moniker “Surf City USA.”  Its world-famous Pier was the site of one of the world’s first open surfing championships, the West Coast Surfing Championship in 1959.  Since then countless surfing competitions have been held on both the south and north side sandbars, including the Katin Pro-Am, Op Pro and since 1994 the U.S. Open of Surfing.

Directly across Pacific Coast Highway from the mouth of the Pier, surf shops have lined both PCH and Main Street since the 60s.  Many of the early local surf stars opened shops selling surfboards under their own name:  Chuck Dent, Bob “The Greek” Bolen, Gordie Duane, Robert August, Wayne Brown, Randy Lewis and others.

On the south corner of PCH and Main sits Huntington Surf & Sport, a retail juggernaut, and directly across the street, Jack’s Surfboards, an institution in HB since the 1960s.  On any given day, hundreds, if not a thousand, people shop in Jack’s. Back in 1995, Jack’s began inducting famous surfers – local and international – into the newly created Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.  Each inductee has a gorgeous stone surfer  with their name and category placed permanently on the sidewalk bordering Jack’s.  The list of past Inductees reads as a “who’s who” in surfing, luminaries from Duke Kahanamoku to 11x World Champ Kelly Slater.

2020 was the Walk of Fame’s 25th year, and every year the event is held during the U.S Open of Surfing waiting period. This year hundreds of spectators and the inductees’ friends and families took a break from watching the pros compete to celebrate the nine new inductees on Thursday Oct. 7th.  This year two of the East Coast’s all-time surfing greats, Cecil Lear and Mike Tabeling, were inducted.

Cecil Lear signing the official event poster

Cecil shared his induction in the Surfing Culture category with long time mentor and friend Lewis “Hoppy” Swarts.  Accepting for Hoppy, who passed away in 1988, was his son, Buzz.  Hoppy is long considered the “father of organized competitive surfing,” having created a judging and scoring system in 1961 when he founded the United States Surfing Association that is still the basis for what is in use today.  In his acceptance speech, Buzz noted the strong ties between his father, Hoppy, and Cecil , who is credited with co-founding the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) after following Hoppy’s advice and learning his system.

Accepting for East Coast super-star Mike Tabeling, who passed away in 2014, was his son, Travis, and wife, Nancy. Tabeling, considered one of the greatest East Coast surfers ever, competed in the ISF (now ISA) World Championships in 1966, 1968, and 1970, and was invited to the 1970 and 1971 Expression Session events on the North Shore of O’ahu. Tabeling was featured in John Severson’s seminal 1970 movie, “Pacific Vibrations,” and was also the first East Coaster to make the cover of Severson’s Surfer magazine in 1971.

For a time Tabeling was considered one of the world’s best surfers.   While Travis acknowledged his dad’s competitive spirit, it was his dad’s “shared stoke of surfing with all he met, which stood out the most to so many.”   Tabeling shared that stoke with Nancy, right up to his passing in ways only he could, with his wife right by his side. Tabeling is the first East Coast surfer to be inducted into the Surfing Pioneer category of the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.  He was also in the first Class of 1996 inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.  Before that, 4X World Champion Frieda Zamba, from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, was the first East Coaster to be inducted in the Woman of the Year category, and Kelly Slater as the first men’s east coaster to be inducted in 2002 in the Surf Champion category.

Also inducted this year were Olympic Gold Medalist and 4X WSL Champion Carissa Moore (Woman of the Year), ASP World Champion Damien Hardman (Surf Champion), Mike Downey (Local Hero), Dr. Tim Brown (Honor Roll) and Ron Abdelfattah, co-owner of Jack’s Surf Shop (Honor Roll).

ECSHOF President Gary Germain came all the way from Puerto Rico to honor his friend and former Hall of Fame president, Cecil Lear

While Cecil may not boast an impressive competition win list, he is renowned for his efforts to better surfing for all surfers worldwide, not just the East Coast.  Cecil’s list of accomplishments in many ways is far more impressive than any string of contest wins. He is the co-founder of the New Jersey Surfing Association as well as its President from 1963–1967. He is co-founder of the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA), and served as its Competition Director from 1967–1970. From 1971 to 2017, he was the ESA’s Secretary and Historian. In 1996, he co-founded, with Greg “Da Bull” Noll, the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame and served as its President from 1996 to 2017, now serving as President Emeritus.

Lear is also a member of the ECSHOF Class of 1996 and the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Cecil has two namesake awards, one in each the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame. In 1969 he was given the Surfer magazine, Surfers Cup Award; in 1974, the Nancy Katin Special Recognition Award; and in 2015 he was presented the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) Lifetime Achievement Award at a formal ceremony held at The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. during the 50th Anniversary of “The Endless Summer” celebration.

Also in attendance were Cecil’s wife of 65+ years, Mary Lou, daughter Nancy, and more than a dozen East Coast surfing luminaries including ECSHOF Board members Gary Germain and Bob Mignogna (Class of 2008), Jim Cartland (Class of 2008), artist Phil Roberts (Class of 2016), Tyler Callaway (Class of 2018), long-time friend, Malibu’s Henry Ford, SHACC’s former Executive Director Glenn Brumage and surfing’s first World Champ, PT Townend as Master of Ceremonies, and others proudly sitting front and center to witness two East Coast surfing icons induction into the prestigious Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.

Clockwise from top: Cecil, Phil Roberts, Henry Ford, Nancy Lear, Mary Lou Lear, Bill Rosenblatt, Glenn Brumage, PT Townend, Jim Cartland, Bob Mignogna. Missing Pam Cartland, Gary Germain

Left, Walk of Fame Chairman John Etheridge, (Mrs.) Nancy Tabeling, Travis Tabeling, MC PT Townend



Surfing’s Debut in the Tokyo Olympics

Hawaii’s Carissa Moore (USA) and Italo Ferreira (Brazil) win Surfing’s inaugural Gold Medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Team USA included 4x WSL World Champion, Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, who took the Gold Medal in the first ever Olympic Surfing event; WSL World Champion, Hawaii’s John John Florence; Florida’s Caroline Marks, who lost in the Bronze Medal match; California’s Kolohe Andino, who lost in the Quarter-Finals to JJF. It was a tremendous showing by the USA Team and a proud moment for East Coasters to watch Marks in the first Olympic Surfing event.

To learn more, visit iasurf.org

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