Florida-born goofyfooter, Jeff Crawford is often credited with putting the East Coast on the international surfing map, paving the way for other notable Floridian rippers including Pat Mulhern, Charlie Kuhn, Matt Kechele, Todd Holland, the Hobgood twins, the Lopez brothers, and the one and only Kelly Slater.
Crawford began surfing competitively in the early 1970s. After racking up a string of victories at local and regional competitions, he placed second in the 1972 U.S. Championship and was a semifinalist at that year’s ISF (now ISA) World Surfing Championship. Soon after, he was invited to participate in one of Hawaii’s most prestigious contests, the Duke Kahanamoku Surfing Classic, where he nabbed third place.
Crawford collided with destiny at the 1974 Pipeline Masters contest, held at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. His easy, nonchalant approach to Pipe’s giant caverns was uncanny, and he dethroned the then-king of the contest, Gerry Lopez, who was coming off winning back-to-back titles. Crawford was the East Coast’s first Pipe Master and would remain the only winner from the region until 1992, when Kelly Slater took the title.
Crawford was soon hailed as “the first great surfer to emerge from the East Coast.” In 1976, the inaugural year of organized professional surfing, he became the first mainlander to make the top sixteen of the International Professional Surfers (IPS), a fledgling pro circuit that would eventually morph into the ASP and then the WSL World Tour. He took out Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew to win the first IPS-rated contest on the East Coast — the infamous Florida Pro at Sebastian Inlet — and he would go on to finish twelfth overall in the 1978 IPS ratings. He also starred in several surf movies during this period, including Going Surfin’ (1973), Fluid Drive (1974), and Tales from the Tube (1975).
The next two decades would be primarily centered on domestic life for Crawford, who settled down with his wife Karen in 1982 and started a family near Sebastian Inlet in Florida. He remained a part-time competitor on the world tour until 1987, and he owned several surfing retail outlets in Central Florida. In need of a change of scenery, he moved his wife and kids to Oahu’s North Shore in 2002, buying a house right in front of Rocky Point.
These days, Crawford, born in 1952, is still charging Pipeline and Rocky Point with the best of them and dabbles with towing the outer reefs. Crawford’s son, Adam, has also been making a name for himself among the new pack of young Hawaiian rippers. When asked if he’ll ever stop charging big waves, Crawford once said, “I surfed with Peter Cole the other day, and he’s like twenty years older than me — there ain’t no reason to quit.”