John Smith*

One of the indisputable forefathers of modern surfing, John Smith established the very foundations of the surfing scene on the East Coast in the 1920s, setting the tone in Virginia Beach for both the sport and the surfing lifestyle that so often goes with it. 

During that era, Smith — along with other early surfing pioneers Babe Braithewaite, Hugh Kitchin, Dusty Hinant, and Buddy Guy — had begun a beach-based enterprise of chair and umbrella rentals along a stretch of sand at V.B., not far from the Golf Ranch Motel that Smith would later own. To watch over the business and the clientele, Smith and his companions organized themselves into the first formalized lifeguarding operation in the area — the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service.

While undeniably a groundbreaking public benefit, the lifeguarding system was also a convenient opportunity to spend every daylight hour in the sand and the surf — which John Smith took full advantage of, carving Virginia Beach’s name into the waves day after day with his Hawaiian longboard. It was there that Smith first took his nephew, the legendary Pete Smith, surfing when Pete was just five years old. It was also there that Smith took a young Bob Holland on his shoulders for a spin on Smith’s paddleboard. 

Smith’s luminary influence also ran further down the East Coast — winter trips south to the Carolinas and Florida opened up new breaks and helped spread surfing culture to fresh faces. Down in Miami Beach, Smith and friends Hinnant and Braithewaite introduced Hawaiian longboarding to the Whitman brothers — who were until that fateful meeting only bellyboarding — spurring them to a new style of waveriding and kickstarting a board-building industry in the process. 

An honorary charter member of Tom Blake’s Kalahuawehe Surfboard Club, and one of the original organizers of the long-running East Coast Surfing Championships, John Smith was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000. 

INDUCTION YEARS

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