Bruce Walker was a military brat, who began surfing in the early 1960s on Oahu, Hawaii, cutting his teeth at spots like Barber’s Point before taking on the challenging waves of the North Shore. When it came time to go off to college, Walker chose Miami, where he met Lewis Graves, a student at nearby Florida International University and Walker’s future business partner.
In those days, the two spent their free time traveling up and down the East Coast in search of the region’s best waves. Walker also honed his skateboarding skills; years later, he made a name for himself in the sport when he won a pro contest in Port Orange, Florida, becoming the first professional skateboarder on the East Coast.
In 1972, Walker and Graves joined forces with Ted James to open Fox Surf Shop in South Beach, still making frequent trips north to Sebastian Inlet. The draw to move to a place with consistent waves was strong, and the two decided to hand over the management of Fox South Beach. They started up a new endeavor, Fox Surfboards, in Melbourne Beach, and bought a neighboring 1,500-square-foot industrial building to use as a surfboard factory.
When Ted James left the business to open his own shop in North Carolina, he took the store name with him, forcing Graves and Walker to rebrand in order to avoid their suppliers’ increasing confusion over the plethora of Fox shops. They named the Melbourne Beach location Ocean Avenue and the South Beach locale Ocean Drive.
They recruited star surfer Jacky Grayson to manage Ocean Avenue, and soon other big surfing names — Tim Briers, Bill Hartley, Mike Nemnich, and Mike Notary — began inquiring about team opportunities. Together, they made up the best team lineup since Surfboards Hawaii, dominating nearly every event they entered and often holding down eight of the top 12 spots in the standings.
At the same time that his surf team was garnering attention, Walker became involved with the resurgence of the skateboard industry. Urethane wheels had revolutionized the sport and everyone seemed to have a board. He started Walker Skateboards, recruiting many of the surfers from the Ocean Avenue team. The athletes would adapt the maneuvers they used on land for the water — a crossover phenomenon that had a lasting impact on the evolution of performance surfing.
Following a fire at the Melbourne Beach factory, Walker bought an old Natural Art factory, and parted ways with Graves. Years later, he left his skate factory behind to focus on skateboard distribution.
In 1986, Walker became the coach for the U.S. Surfing Team, leading them to gold at the ISA World Surfing Championship in England in 1986, and again at Huntington Beach 10 years later. Walker is especially well known for personally coaching two of the brightest stars in their respective sports: skateboarder Rodney Mullen and surfer Kelly Slater. He is also a talented filmmaker, and has created surf and skate video shorts for companies like Billabong, Quiksilver, Sector 9, and ESPN. Walker was inducted into the Skateboard Hall of Fame in 2022.
Photos by Hunter Joslin, Greg Meischeld, Dick “Mez” Meseroll, Larry Pope, Doug Waters, and courtesy Bruce Walker