Rick Rasmussen*

Hard-charging goofy-footer, Rick “The Raz” Rasmussen, began surfing at age 10, shortly after moving from Maine to the affluent Long Island neighborhood of Westhampton Beach.

As a Junior’s division surfer, Rasmussen placed fourth in the 1972 U.S. Surfing Championships, first in the 1973 East Coast Championships, and third in the 1973 U.S. Surfing Championships. The next year, he moved up to the Men’s division and finished fifth in the East Coast Championship at just 18 years old. He would go on to take the top spot on the Men’s podium at the 1974 U.S. Surfing Championships held at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, becoming the first from the East Coast to claim the prestigious title. 

Rasmussen was known not only for his aggressive, small-wave style, but also for his tube riding skills, garnering praise from star surfers like Gerry Lopez after threading colossal barrels at Pipeline, on Oahu, Hawaii’s North Shore. He was one of the first East Coast surfers to travel to Indonesia, riding Uluwatu in Bali in 1976 and Java’s Grajagan—G-Land—the following year. 

Along with pro surfer Linda Davoli, television actor Gregory Harrison, and future East Coast Surfing Hall of Famer, Tony Caramanico, Rasmussen was filmed by Surfing magazine’s staff photographer, Dan Merkel, at G-Land in 1980 for an episode of ABC TV’s American Sportsman. He also appeared in several surf movies, including Fantasea (1978) and Bali High (1981). Throughout the 1970s, Rasmussen shaped surfboards for Clean and Natural, and Rick Rasmussen Surfboards — both his own labels.

Rasmussen’s surfing accomplishments were frequently overshadowed by the consequences of fast living, including legal troubles related to drug offenses in Bali and New York in the late 1970s and early 80s. He was tragically shot and killed in Harlem in 1982 following a botched Times Square drug deal. At just 27, his life — along with his illustrious surfing career — were cut far too short. 

Rasmussen was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000.

Photos by Dan Merkel, Bob Mignogna, and Lance Trout.