Joe Roland, the recognizable goofyfooter with the electric blond afro from Jacksonville Beach, made a name for himself and the North Florida surfing scene in 1968, winning the top spot in the newly formed and hotly contested East Coast 4A circuit. “There isn’t a surfer in the East who can put his board into a given position on a wave faster or with greater confidence than Joe,” Surfing magazine said that year. “When Joe is hot and surfing radically, he can’t be touched.”
Roland began riding waves in 1964 at the age of 13, paying for his first board with the small change he made washing cars in North Florida’s Atlantic Beach. Tall, slender, and light-footed on the board, Roland became known as a skilled noserider, nimbly perching on the nose and never stepping back — a smooth style that drew frequent comparisons to California style-master David Nuuhiwa.
When the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) debuted its elite 4A division, it was studded with such internationally known East Coast surfers as Mike Tabeling, Claude Codgen and Gary Propper. Following his breakout success there, Roland was made captain of the East Coast Surf Team for the 1968 World Surfing Championships in Puerto Rico, and earned a feature in Surfing magazine’s February 1969 issue. Later that same year, he again took home first place at the East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) in Virginia Beach and was a finalist in the small wave division of the 1969 Peru International.
Not long after Roland’s ECSC win, he began to pick up sponsorships from Weber, Rick Surfboards, and Hansen — soon designing and debuting a Joe Roland signature board through Hansen Surfboards.
At a time when wave riding in the Sunshine State meant heading south to Cocoa Beach, Joe Roland put North Florida surfing on the map — with a little help from childhood friends and fellow Jax Beach surfers Dick Rosborough and Larry Miniard, with whom he joined forces to launch a surf label. He was elected to the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1998.
Photos by Dick Graham, Dave Silver, and courtesy Hansen, Surf Research, and Joe Roland