Skill Johnson

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Skill Johnson was a standout in the early Mid-Atlantic surf scene. He and his brothers began surfing in 1963, and he was a fierce competitor on the Eastern Surfing Association circuit in the late 60s and early 70s. He took a stylish and athletic approach to the sport, providing inspiration for many others from his region. 

Johnson surfed for the Hobie Team from 1964 to 1966, and then for Team Weber from 1967 to 1972. In 1967, he competed against a strong California pack to make it to the semi-finals in the Atlantic States Surfing Contest. There, Dewey Weber walked up to him and said, “Skill, you’re the last Weber Team guy in the competition.” 

He went on to become the Men’s champ at the Middle Atlantic Surfing Championships in Ocean City, Maryland, in 1968 and 1970, and he won the competition’s paddle race five years in a row. Johnson’s career highlight came in 1973 at the East Surfing Association (ESA) Championships in Cape Hatteras, where he became the first East Coast Champion in the newly formed Masters division. 

Johnson moved to Hawaii in 1974, where he became involved with the surf scene and worked for Haleiwa Surf Center. While there, he started the Haleiwa Skateboard Club and taught surfing, sailing, and the art of surfboard shaping and glassing. In 1977, he helped Rell Sunn start the North Shore Menehune Surfing Championships. Johnson became director of the contest the following year and ran the event for more than 20 years.  

In 1986, Johnson became involved with the Triple Crown of Surfing – Hawaii’s premier pro surfing events. For 28 years he worked as a production manager, emcee, and contest commentator. One year, he announced four world championships: The Quiksilver Eddie Aikau, Pipeline Masters, World Bodyboard Championships, and the World Bodysurfing Championships at Pipeline. He also served as the emcee and commentator for the World Championship of Paddleboarding.

Photos by Will Lucas, Bill Wise, and courtesy Skill Johnson