John “Jack” Hannon was born in 1927 in Bellmore, New York, and grew up playing in the waves of nearby Jones Beach. At age 11 he was surfing and at 16 he was lifeguarding. At the time, surfboards were a rare commodity in New York — the first surfer he remembers seeing was Bill Coleman, captain of the Jones Beach lifeguards, sometime around 1938. Hannon eventually got his hands on a Tom Blake paddleboard, restored it, and began surfing regularly.
After high school, Hannon joined the Marine Corps, then went on to earn a degree in social science at New York’s Niagara University. From there he bounced across the country, to Long Beach, California, to work in corporate finance. At one point he even had a short stint playing for the Green Bay Packers. Then, in 1959, he returned to New York with a new Hobie surfboard and six foam blanks, and a desire to become a shaper.
In 1961, he opened up Hannon Surfboards in Great Neck, Long Island — the first shop of its kind in the state. A few years later he moved the shop to Garden City, then finally to Farmingdale. During the warm months, Hannon also ran a beach concession at Gilgo Beach, where he rented boards and gave surf lessons.
The same year he opened Hannon Surfboards —1961 — he helped organize the inaugural East Coast Surfing Championships. Stocky and sure-footed, Hannon was also a good surfer. In later years, while surfing in the Seniors division of the ECSC, he often placed runner-up to Virginia Beach ace Bob Holland.
Hannon Surfboards lasted for 8 years, and in that time Hannon produced hundreds of boards that traveled as far away as Maine. “His many contributions to the sport,” SURFER Magazine noted in 1964, “have been the single greatest factor that has led to the gigantic surf boom on Long Island.” After closing the shop in 1969, Hannon opened a ski store, taught at a community college, and later became the recreation director for Nassau County.
For good reason, Hannon is known as the “Father of New York Surfing.” Hannon passed away in January 2022.