Henry “Stretch” Pohl*

In the 1930s, Long Beach Island was the final frontier of the New Jersey Shore — a desolate and rugged barrier island with a small tourism district on the south end and a few scattered fishing and hunting bungalows to the north. There was no summertime gridlock, no traffic lights, no paved roads, and no surfboards — until 1937, when Duke Kahanamoku and Tom Blake made a trip to the Garden State.

Henry “Stretch” Pohl, along with good friend Gordon “Mike” Howes, witnessed the two surf legends hold a waveriding demonstration in Atlantic City, just south of their Long Beach Island summertime home. The moment was life changing; it validated what they had suspected all along: it was possible to ride a surfboard on Jersey waves. 

That same year, Popular Mechanics printed a do-it-yourself article by Blake in which he detailed the carving of his hollow surfboard design. Board shaping was about to have a moment on the Jersey Shore. Legendary shapers like Rich Lisiewski — of what is today called the Brighton Beach Surf Shop — was one of many influential board builders. But it was Pohl who would make a name for himself as Long Beach Island’s founding father of surfing. 

Pohl was a passionate surfer who worked tirelessly to promote the Hawaiian pastime within the community. He launched the Long Beach Island Surfing Association, which would establish the first official surfing beaches on the barrier island. He also organized the first surf contest on the island, taught residents how to surf, and shaped boards. 

Pohl was also serious about water safety. He and Howes spearheaded water safety education classes for Long Beach Island residents, lifeguards, and the local beach patrol. They held countless demonstrations locally and regionally, teaching lifeguards about the rescue paddleboard and lifesaving techniques that are still relevant today. Pohl would go on to serve as a director of water safety for the Red Cross and, along with Howes, write myriad disaster preparedness articles and water safety manuals that were distributed across the globe.

Henry Pohl is a member of the class of 2000 inductees into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.