Mike Oppenheimer

When it came to the East Coast surf scene, New York didn’t have much to brag about until the early 1970s when Mike Oppenheimer burst onto the scene. The Long Island native snagged the top spot at the 1973 Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) Championship, beating out star surfer Greg Loehr in a rough, tube-heavy final that came courtesy of Tropical Storm Christine. 

Oppenheimer took home ESA Championship gold again in 1975, once again weathering rough weather conditions, this time from Hurricane Doris. The victory solidified the notion that competitive East Coast surfing wasn’t reserved only for surfers from the Sunshine State. While Oppenheimer moved to Hawaii soon after his big ESA victories, his legacy paved the way for a string of star surfers from the Northeast, including New York’s Rick Rasmussen and New Jersey’s Dean Randazzo, amongst others.  

Oppenheimer’s competitive surfing journey was preceded by a stint as a surfboard shaper. He then fell in love with the sport itself and started traveling for surf contests. He scored the top spot at the New York State Championship for a number of years before going on to capture his ESA Championship titles. 

Hawaii proved to be an irresistible draw due to its world-renowned surf breaks. He moved there in the mid-1970s and was grateful for the increased surfing opportunities, which gave him the freedom to pursue other interests. He started a spiritual quest that would soon become his primary life mission. 

In 1994, Oppenheimer founded Let Us Reason Ministries, a contemporary resource center designed to help equip Christians with both biblical and logical answers to questions about their faith. Additionally, he has hosted a television program and a live call-in radio show, “Let Us Reason,” on a local Hawaii station. He was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2002. 

Photos by Alan Margolis, Bob Mignogna, and courtesy Mike Oppenheimer