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Zinc Oxide Optional at Surfer Gala

Even the most capacious of the hundreds of Hawaiian shirts that blossomed inside Balboa Park’s Hall of Champions could not conceal the midlife paunches that bulged under some of them and caused the brightly printed palm trees to appear to be swaying in a mild tropical breeze each time the wearer took breath.

About 600 surfing enthusiasts joined many of the sport’s legends at the benefit awards ceremony Saturday hosted by the International Surfing Hall of Fame. Some of those present were famous by the mid-1950s and ‘60s, when long boards alone ruled the waves, including Bruce Brown, whose 1966 film, “Endless Summer,” has remained the definitive surf epic.

When apprised that he was to be honored during the formal program, Brown seemed to chew the information for a moment and then said in a matter-of-fact tone, “They’re probably going to hand me some old motel bill I didn’t pay.”

Instead, Brown and other celebrated surf riders witnessed the unveiling of the International Surfing Hall of Fame’s Permanent Shrine to members first honored in 1966. As the evening progressed, the Hall of Champions became a sort of surf Valhalla for the younger set that jammed in to meet the lengthy list of inductees, which included apparel designer Duke Boyd, musician Dick Dale, surfer gear designer Jack O’Neill, photographer John (Doc) Ball, writer John Severson and noted preservationist of surf culture LeRoy (Granny) Grannis.

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As events go, this one differed somewhat from the prototypical San Diego fund-raiser, although nothing could be more natural in this town than an event honoring those whose colorful language has so enriched the local vocabulary. The invitations specified black tie or “optional Polynesian attire,” an option taken by about 97% of the guests, many of whom said they had not ventured this far inland in years. The buffets of chicken teriyaki and breaded mahi-mahi seemed well-regarded, and vintage surf tunes played far more softly than when both they and the assembled surfing greats were creating the scene. After the ceremonies, the party offered its guests a “Surf Band Jam Session” accompanied by surf dancing, and perhaps the only elements lacking were a pair of Annette and Frankie look-alikes.

The event’s title, the 25th Anniversary Awards, suggested continuity, but in fact memorialized just two ceremonies, 1966’s and 1991’s. In Santa Monica in 1966, a publication then titled International Surfing Magazine and now known simply as Surfing, published the names and photographs of the 14 surfing stars, but the honorees were never enshrined outside the magazine’s pages. That situation led to the Permanent Shrine unveiled Saturday. The shrine is also dedicated to inductees selected this year and whenever the next ceremony is. The eligibility requirements, by the way, specify that the proposed honoree be at least 30 years of age and an alumni of 15 or more years of the University of Hanging 10.

Proceeds from the benefit were earmarked for the ISHOF goal of building a museum, library and hall of fame complex to preserve the artifacts, lore and personalities of the sport.

Inductee Rell Sunn and her partner, Jericho Popper, with whom she founded women’s professional surfing in 1976, flew over from Hawaii for the ceremony. “This is like the Academy Awards of surfing,” said Sunn. “How could anyone miss it?”

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“The surf was flat, so here we are,” added Popper, who said that while she and Sunn never profited from founding the women’s category in professional surfing, “women around the world now are making livings as pro surfers.”

Among other inductees were Joe Quigg, Dr. Colin Couture, Donald Takayama, David Nuuhiwa, Margo Oberg and famed surfboard “shaper” Skip Frye. The committee included Bobby (Challenger) Thomas, Bill Andrews, David Ish, Phil Rumsey and Chris Ahrens.

Also on Saturday, Gov. Pete Wilson, the politician who favored beach party motifs at his campaign fund-raisers and victory celebrations, came to town with his wife, Gayle, for “Hollywood Hollywood,” the eighth annual Gold and White Ball.

About 260 guests attended the black-tie benefit, given in Marriott Hall at the San Diego Marriott by the Crime Victims Fund. Event chair Rowan Klein estimated that proceeds from the gala and auction would handily exceed $50,000.

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Master of Ceremonies and former San Diego Chief of Police Bill Kolender (whose wife, Lois, chaired or co-chaired three previous Gold and White Balls) credited Wilson with suggesting, when the fund was created a decade ago, that the private sector be enlisted to assist crime victims. At “Hollywood Hollywood,” that support came especially from law firms, quite a number of which purchased tables, as well as from the Deputy Sheriffs Assn. of San Diego County and the San Diego City Firefighters.

During the cocktail reception, guests bid on the numerous auction items--which included a ride-along on the Sheriff Department’s Astrea helicopter--while waiting for the governor to make his entrance. Although a lieutenant in the San Diego Police Department astonished several in the crowd by warning guests not to dally too long with Wilson, this was largely a group of insiders that greeted the hometown-boy-made-good in cordial, familiar fashion.

The Hollywood theme played out through the evening with a musical review and dancing to Benny Holman’s Velvetones in a ballroom hung with hundreds of gold stars. In place of the chicken that frequently appears at such events, the menu opened with Caesar salad, continued with a surf ‘n’ turf pairing and concluded with Black Forest cake.

Crime Victims Fund President Joe Charest said his organization does “very simple but important things. We buy people groceries. We pay their rent for a month. These things are critical in the immediate aftermath of a crime.”

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“We’ve given away more than $250,000 to more than 2,500 victims,” said Beverly DiGregorio, co-founder of the fund with Judge William L. Todd Jr. of the 4th District Court of Appeal. “It’s amazing how important victims think it is to receive something . The emotional impact of a crime often is greater than the actual loss, and people so appreciate knowing that there’s an organization that cares.”

The committee included Vernon Aguirre, Marlene Ward, Ellen Bond, Katy Walker, Cheryl Cassidy, Candice Stephens, Griff Hayes, Stephen E. C. Wong, Kara Kobey-Canogullari, Cynthia and Frank Newberry, Kathy Manfred and Barbara and Charles Nelson.


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