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Class of 2024 Induction Ceremony

East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Inducts Class of 2024

Ten Category Inductees and the Cecil Lear President’s Award Recipient Celebrated

The Class of 2024. Back row, l-r: David Speir, Kem McNair, Darrell Jones, Roy Turner, ECSHOF President Gary Germain, Ricky Carroll, Tom Warnke, MC Hunter Joslin. Front row, l-r: Falina Spires, Bill “Holmesy” Holmes, Noah Snyder, Mark Neustadter and Baron Knowlton.
Duke replica board shaped by craftsman Bill Simon, donated to the ECSHOF by Mike Miggs.

SURF EXPO, Orlando, Florida, Thursday, January 11, 2024 – The East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame is proud to announce the Class of 2024 has been inducted during a gala ceremony held Wednesday evening, January 10, 2024, in front of a full house at the Orange County Convention Center following a day of business at the Surf Expo Trade Show held in the same location.

The Class of 2024 were inducted in five categories through a rigorous four-step process, which began on December 1, 2022 with public application submissions, and includes:

Culture—-Tom Warnke, Florida

Industry—Mark Neustadter, New Jersey

Media –– Darrell Jones, Florida

Legends—Ricky Carroll, Florida; Bill “Holmesy” Holmes, Florida; Kem McNair, Florida

Surfers—–Falina Spires, Florida; Baron Knowlton, Florida; Noah Snyder, North Carolina; David Speir, Florida

Also Inducted in the biennial ceremony was Roy Turner, who was selected by the Board of Directors to receive the prestigious Cecil Lear President’s Award, named to honor the Hall of Fame’s co-founder and 20-year President (1996-2016).

The CLPA is awarded to an individual who made a lasting contribution to East Coast Surfing in leadership or mentoring.  Turner, Sr. Vice President and Show Director of Surf Expo, has been a supporter of the development and growth of East Coast Surfing – the sport and business – throughout his career, previously as a specialty surf retailer, professional surfing contest producer and president of the retailers’ trade association, and currently as surf industry trade show executive.

“It is an honor to be recognized by your peers with induction into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame,” commented ECSHOF President Gary Germain during the event after party.  “These 11 inductees in the Class of 2024 will always be remembered for their contributions to the sport on the Right Coast.  They join 177 Hall of Famers who have been inducted since 1996.”

Photos by: Michael Baytoff/Mike Vuocolo

2024-01-23T16:44:33+00:00

ESA Honors Co-Founder Cecil Lear

ESA Honors Co-Founder Cecil Lear at the Eastern Surfing Championships

Words by Kathy Phillips, former ESA Executive Director
All photos Mez / ESM / @mezapixels unless noted

Mary Lou Lear pondering a wonderful and long life with her husband. Photo: Michael Weiss, Cecil and Mary Lou’s great-grandson.

The many dried and browning leis draped across Mary Lou Lear’s dresser mirror attest to the incredible outpouring of East Coast love and respect given to her husband, Cecil Lear, co-founder of the ESA and ECSHOF, who recently passed away at a fulfilling age of 91 years.

The Eastern Surfing Association paid its respects to Cecil on September 19th during the 2022 EASTERNS held at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head NC, hosting a beautiful sunset paddle out ceremony and a celebration of his incredibly fulfilling life.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

Site of the 2022 Easterns and the paddle out honoring ESA co-founder, Cecil Lear.

Gary Germain and South Jersey’s Joe Grottola led the paddle out ceremony as over 60 paddlers formed a circle just outside the lineup and said farewell in traditional Hawaiian style while four generations of the Lear family (bedecked in authentic orchid leis direct from Hawaii) and hundreds more watched emotionally from the beach and the pier.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

Family and friends In a traditional Hawai’ian circle for a dear friend who has passed.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

Mary Lou Lear surrounded by her daughters and family members at the post paddle-out celebration.

The reception was held upstairs in the spacious second story Jennette’s Pier Oceanview Hall with panoramic windows where everyone was watching for traces of the anxiously awaited Hurricane Fiona swell.

The hall was crowded with members of the East Coast community from far and wide, young and old, famous, not famous, and even a few infamous, who came to pay their respects to Mary Lou and the family.  Everyone sat in the darkened room to watch the short but significant video of Cecil’s life curated by Luda Ronky Captures letting out cheers, laughs, tears and hoots as appropriate.

Off on the side of the room stood an oversized brushed metal plaque complete with a classic surf photo of a young, handsome Cecil surrounded by a wide blank space, and a stack of Sharpies nearby.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

Mary Lou Lear and family.

That so many signed it was not in itself remarkable, but rather the messages were less about acknowledging a Legend and instead simply referring to Cecil as a greatly missed friend.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening was legendary surf photographer Dick Meseroll’s recorded tribute in the video that had the room cheering. He said “If you met Cecil Lear, you had a friend for life.”

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

Mary Lou Lear and daughters along with Ricky Carroll, a long-time friend, ESA competitor and surfboard shaper.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

The beautiful North Carolina surf from Hurricane Fiona came just in time to honor the ESA co-founder.

ESA Honors Cecil Lear

ESA Executive Director Michelle Sommers, who organized the paddle out and the video of Cecil’s life, along with Mary Lou and East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame president Gary Germain.

2022-09-27T01:30:25+00:00

Cecil Lear Paddle Out

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Cecil’s Beach, Belmar NJ

Cecil Lear Paddleout

“There will never be another Cecil”

5.21.2022 – Belmar, New Jersey…..a tight-knit, local seaside community, hardcore surf culture and history, extreme surf conditions, locals tight-lipped about the best breaks when its goin off, and home to some of the best pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches on earth.

As a thick early morning veil of fog is melted off by the scorching sun, pale tourists walk towards the beach to stake their space in the sand. Groups of surfers, locals, media, and out-of-towners gather near the 17th Street beach entrance. Traffic is becoming exhaustive and the town is filling up faster than the hot sun can make you squint. Yet through all this summer-like chaos, heat, confusion, fun and laughter, there’s this gate that has a sign on it, in capital letters…NOT LOCALS ONLY. A person’s face peers out with a broad, friendly smile…it’s Cecil, Cecil Lear, welcoming everyone in to his home town, his local turf, his beach, his home, his Rock…..as only Cecil would. Unbeknownst to many, other than Cecil’s wife Mary Lou Lear, almost to this day, 69 years ago, along this very boardwalk, in this same spot, Cecil met Mary Lou for the very first time. Now Mary Lou Lear, with her family, friends, and all near and dear to her and Cecil, come together to pay tribute to Cecil’s life and his contributions to the town of Belmar and to the entire surfing community.

Feeling emotional, with many words not needed, as his actions do speak for themselves, Don Tarrant stands quietly in front of his shop, surveying the local crowd as it grows, softly speaking to friends and taking it all in. Don, owner of Eastern Lines Surf Shop, is the coordinator of this event. Eastern Lines Surf Shop became Cecil’s local shop where he would hang out and talk surf stories; it’s where much of Cecil’s memorabilia currently hangs.

Then, without any hesitation, Don starts off heading to the beach, leading a flock of surfers – smiling young groms, ripped 20-30 yr olds, mid-aged males and females, and old bald headed surf gurus. It is Jersey hot, the ocean is Jersey cold….onto the boardwalk then the beach, but first to listen to words from wise men and women who knew and loved Cecil. Harry Harsin, Chief of Belmar Lifeguards, speaks of Cecil and his contribution to the patrol. Cecil was a Belmar lifeguard for over 20 years. Dr. Bill Rosenblatt, a near and dear friend to Cecil, speaks of all the lives that Cecil touched, and how it affected them. Frank Keuma, of Hawaii, stands tall in front of the crowd and tells stories of early days with Cecil, and how at a young age, being homeless, Cecil took him in after befriending him on the beach. He then offers a prayer for Cecil. Mary Lou Lear speaks with soft loving words in front of the crowd….. holding back tears, while expressing deep thanks to all.

Cecil and Mary Lou’s three daughters, Nancy, Jeannie, and Sue, are in attendance. Mary Lou Lear, “This is all just so wonderful. Cecil is truly smiling down on us today.” To top all the speeches and as a surprise to all in attendance, the Mayor of Belmar, speaking of his personal relationship with Cecil, speaking of all of Cecil’s contributions to the Belmar community, and how without Cecil’s prodding, he may never have even become a Belmar resident, declared and proclaimed thru his office, that May 21st will forever be known as Cecil Lear Day in Belmar, New Jersey.

Speeches, tears, smiles and laughter all die down, but the sun gets hotter and hotter…..surfers pull on their baked rubber fullsuits in the midday sun, then scramble like ants to sugar as they jump on their boards into the chilled Jersey surf….paddling 100 yards into the Atlantic to pay final respects to an icon, an innovator, a historian, a friend, a father and a loving husband who was graciously shared by his wife to the entire surfing world.

As ESA South Jersey Director Lisa Roselli said, “Cecil’s family had to share him with all of us. That’s not easy. Loved the dude,….Cecil and Mary Lou. I couldn’t speak out there, I would have just cried.” Gary Germain, former competitive ESA surfer and current president of The East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame, “Cecil enabled surfing to be better in every way, shape and form, not only on the East Coast, but all over the world.” Brian Heritage, president of  The New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame, remarks on the words spoken during the paddleout, “Words were spoken of how Cecil was always giving and guiding to all of us, especially the younger up and coming crew. That Cecil so wanted to get rid of the stigma surrounding surfers and have them treated as world class athletes as they are.”

Speaking to many surfers in attendance, from Jersey and afar, the theme is the same, Cecil took the time and the effort to care, make them feel comfortable, to help them understand what being a surfer means, and how to respectfully represent, not just in the present, but more importantly for and in the future….in surfing and in life.

As Don Tarrant slowly walks back to his beachfront shop, his brow beading with sweat, he pauses and reflects on the day, sighs a bit of relief, and quietly yet emphatically says, “There will never be another Cecil.”

Words and photos by Michael Baytoff

2022-09-26T18:31:27+00:00

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

2022-05-23T15:52:35+00:00

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

 

2021-12-17T03:13:05+00:00

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

2021-12-14T18:15:12+00:00
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