On Friday the crowd from the US Open of Surfing -- the sport's biggest, most grand event -- will spill over across the Pacific Coast Highway to watch three new inductees into the Surfers' Hall of Fame: Dane Reynolds, Hawaiian surf legend Rabbit Kekai and Andy Verdone, the long time coach of the Huntington Beach High School Surf team. They will press their hand and foot prints into the pavement on Main Street, right there in front of Huntington Surf & Sport.
With their inductions, Reynolds, Kekai and Verdone join an incredible cast of surfers, industry executives and board shapers who have left a lasting imprint on surfing, the surf industry and surf culture. Reynolds, according to Aaron Pai, founder of the Surfers' Hall of Fame, is being inducted because of his radical approach to wave riding. In other words, the dude rips, and that's all you really need to know (see him in action below). The other two inductees, though, present more compelling reasons for inclusion.
According to Pai, there was sizable public outcry to include Kekai, now 92 years old, in this year's class. Kekai was born in Waikiki in 1920. He started surfing at 5 and by the age of 10 was taken under the wing of the great Duke Kahanamoku.
Kekai is famous for his beach-boy lifestyle. As Matt Warshaw notes in the Encyclopedia of Surfing, Kekai was a beachfront concession-stand worker who gave surf and canoe lessons to tourists, lounged on the sand, played the ukulele, traded stories, romanced the endless stream of vacationing ladies and frequently engaged in small-time hustles and scams.
He is widely regarded as the top high-performance surfer of the 1930s and '40s. He helped pioneer surfing on the North Shore of Oahu and became known as the innovator of the drop-knee turns and the whole concept of hot-dogging. He was the primary influence to a bunch of surfing's brand-name heavies -- dudes like Phil Edwards, Miki Dora, Matt Kivlin, Joe Quigg and Donald Takayama. Kekai has also been credited as the surfer who invented nose-riding.
Rabbit spent the 1940s as an Army frog man, planting explosives on island-based enemy defenses in Micronesia. In 1956 he won the Makaha International contest and two years later he won the tandem division. He also won the United States Surfing Championships in his age group in 1973, 1980, 1984 and 1988. At the 2000 event, at the age of 79, he came in fourth in the legends division despite competing against men who were 15 years younger.
According to Pai, there was also a public demand for the inclusion of Andy Verdone in this year's Hall of Fame class. Upon taking the job as the surf coach at Huntington Beach High School in 1987-'88, Verdone immediately led his team to a National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Title. In fact, over the past 25 years Verdone has led the Oilers to 10 NSSA titles as well as a National Surf League title in 2010.
Each year, more than 100 student surfers turn out for try-outs. His coaching program is famously rigorous; he's an ex-football coach and is said to be a serious disciplinarian. Only 30 surfers make the cut. Over the years, the chosen few have been pushed to improve their games with surf trips to South Africa, Ireland and Australia. Verdone's coaching is so well regarded, according to Pai, that one young man moved to Huntington Beach from Nantucket, Massachusetts -- clear across the country -- without his family, just for the opportunity to surf on the Oilers team. Verdone has turned out a number of world class surfers, most notably US Open champion Brett Simpson.
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