Since Bill Lucking first ventured into the waves along Ventura’s south jetty in 1953, the art of gliding along the ocean has come naturally.
Today, Lucking is credited with bringing the sport of bodysurfing to Ventura County. The retired attorney is so much a part of the sport’s local fabric that the current that develops off the south jetty of Ventura Harbor is known as the Lucking Rip.
But Lucking shrugs off the title “Father of Bodysurfing,” saying he prefers to be known for his role as a grandfather.
Two weeks ago in Oceanside, the 76-year-old’s grandson, David Ford of Ojai, rose from a pack of 365 bodysurfers, including entrants from France, Australia and Hawaii, to become the 1993 world bodysurfing champion.
Competitive bodysurfing, while not as common as board surfing, has grown into a highly organized sport. Unlike board surfers, contestants use the underside of their bodies as a gliding surface and are judged on the length and difficulty of their rides. They are allowed only swim fins and wet suits in competition.
Ford, a 17-year-old senior at Nordhoff High School, won the competition by using his strong kick to stay on top of a unique wave called a “re-form,” so named because it crests, brakes and crests a second time.
“Of the 300 top competitors that were out there, maybe a dozen could have done what David did,” said Dean Hazard, another bodysurfer from Ojai. “Staying with those waves required incredible strength and ability.”
Lucking credits David’s parents for cultivating their children’s love for the ocean and creating a world-class bodysurfing team. David’s twin brother, Chris, finished third in his age division in the competition, and the youngest Ford, 10-year-old Spencer, placed fifth in a contest for children age 12 to 15.
“It’s really a family affair,” said Lucking as he stepped out of the waves Wednesday. “These kids are something else.”
Lucking’s daughter, Carly Ford, and her husband, Ernie, have entered the boys in competitions since they were 10 years old. Carly Ford said she thinks the family has bodysurfing in its genes.
“It actually started with my father’s mother,” she said. “She was riding the waves until she was almost 90 years old. These kids just gravitated toward the ocean.”
Not surprisingly, David decided to work as a state lifeguard during the summer, and he said he never plans to stray far from the ocean.
“I’d like to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps,” David said. “If I can, I’ll come out to surf every day of my life.”