Skip Savage was raised in Delaware, but didn’t start surfing until he joined the Air Force in 1962 and was stationed in Central Florida. During that time, he traveled to Cocoa Beach on a regular basis and quickly picked up on surfing. For decades after, he remained a top-rated Eastern Surfing Association competitor.
“A military job and surfing was a bit tricky,” Savage once said. “We would all have to chip in a dollar so we could get gas money to get to the beach.” In order to get in more surf time, Savage would work the night shift. Or if he couldn’t do that, he and his fellow military surf buddies would manage to squeeze in a few hours between plane landings and take-offs. If all else failed, Savage would head over to the skateboard spot he’d carved out in a hanger. “I had my green fatigue uniform on, hat, pants and jacket and all that stuff, and I had green tennis shoes, so I was still official,” Savage said. “And [I’d] skateboard in the hanger all night.
In the spring of 1967, fresh out of the Air Force, he jumped into the surfboard business, both in Pensacola, Florida as well as Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Savage was the first surf shop owner in Delaware to carry Pat O’Hare’s boards. Savage then picked up Greg Noll Surfboards, which were a hot commodity on the East Coast. The business partnership with Noll blossomed into a lifelong friendship.
That same year, the shortboard revolution struck the surf world seemingly overnight. For Savage, shortboarding made surfing that much more addictive — he later admitted it was difficult to run his business while sitting in the lineup so much. Eventually, he left his Pensacola business to his team member and friend, Yancy Spencer, who went on to build it into one of the premier shops in that region.
Photos by Tom Dugan / ESM, Bill Wise and courtesy Skip Savage