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