William “Flea” Shaw

Goofy-footer William “Flea” Shaw was born and raised in Ormond Beach, Florida. Although Shaw was the son of local car racing legend Brewer Shaw, he opted to exercise his athletic prowess in the water rather than on land and started surfing at age nine on his father’s 14-foot finless paddleboard. Surfing became the new family hobby when Shaw’s brother Lee also decided to pick up the sport. 

The charming, freckle-faced Shaw caught the attention of the surfing world at age 10, when he scored a cameo in Dick Barrymore’s 1971 surf movie, The Performers. That same year, he won the Boys division of the Florida State Surfing Championships, and Surfing magazine’s October issue named him “Personality of the Month,” reporting that “He is fast becoming one of the East Coast’s top surfers. In our book, we place him right behind [East Coast Champion] Gary Propper.” 

Shaw was a compact and quick-footed surfer. In 1963, he earned the runner-up spot in the boys division of the highly competitive Virginia Beach Surf Carnival, a precursor to the East Coast Surfing Championships. After finishing high school, Shaw did a short stint as a professional surfer, ranking 35th in the world at the height of his career in 1978. After five years on the professional circuit, he decided to hang it up and open a surf shop in his hometown of Ormond Beach. There he made boards and offered coaching and mentorship to the town’s up-and-coming surfers.

It was in that shop that Shaw first met Frieda Zamba, who came to the store to buy a board. Shaw ended up becoming Zamba’s manager and coach, and between 1984 and 1988, she won four professional World Surfing Championships. The two married in 1987, and in 1998, Shaw earned his spot in the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.

Photos by Tom Dugan, Dick “Mez”Meseroll, Paul Prewitt, Chapman Root, Ron Stoner, and courtesy Ocean Pacific, George Williams, and Flea Shaw