Jack Haley; Icon of Surfing Loses Cancer Battle


Friends called him Mr. Excitement. Jack Haley, Seal Beach surfing icon and restaurateur, pulled off everything with grandeur and style.

So it wasn’t surprising that before Haley died Sunday after a battle with cancer, the 65-year-old had planned his own beach party memorial bash, with mariachi music and Hawaiian shirts.

“He demanded there not be a tear at the party,” his son, Tim, said Monday. “He wanted it to celebrate his life.”

The date, time and place for the party have yet to be decided. Meanwhile, scores of Haley’s friends and admirers have been dropping by his restaurant, Captain Jack’s, to pay their respects, Tim Haley said.


Haley, who two years ago was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, was never far from the surf that made him a local legend.

He was just a young man when he took top honors in the first surfing championship held near the Huntington Beach pier. The year was 1959, and Haley was credited with laying the foundation that would later give the seaside community its nickname: Surf City.

In 1961, he opened one of the area’s first surf shops, Jack Haley’s Surfboards. Four years later, he opened Captain Jack’s restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway.

He loved Seal Beach, and always seemed to be either starting or finishing a community project, his friends said. In 1997, for example, Haley headed a campaign to raise private funds to build a police substation atop the lifeguard headquarters. The building is named for him.


Haley, who stood 6 feet 6, “was large in presence as he was in stature,” said Rich Harbour, a surfboard manufacturer who knew Haley for about 40 years. “When he walked into a room, you felt it right away. People looked at him with respect. . . . Whatever he did, it was bigger than life. If he threw a party, it would be one of the most amazing parties in years and everyone would talk about it.”

Of all his accomplishments, Haley was probably best known as a surfing pioneer. In those early days, he made boards and rode the waves when it was rare to find someone who did either.

Young aspiring surfers have long looked up to Haley as a mentor. Many, like Harbour, bought their first surfboards from him.

A bit of a maverick, Haley always preferred surfing on the long boards crafted in the 1960s to the shorter boards that became popular later, friends said.

“He caught more waves than anyone,” said Bruce Jones, a surfboard manufacturer. “He was just being himself, and he stood out of the crowd.”

Haley almost always wore bright Hawaiian shirts--untucked--with shorts and flip-flop sandals.

He is survived by his mother, Virginia; his wife, Jeanette; and children, Tim, Sondra and Jack Jr., who played professional basketball, including two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. They plan to sprinkle his ashes into the ocean off Maui and Cabo San Lucas, where he owned homes.

“His ashes will be poured into the sea, so he will continue surfing,” said Tim Haley.