Chuck Allen dies at 74; Southern California surfing and snowboarding enthusiast
Chuck Allen, a onetime high school surfing coach in Southern California who established amateur surfing and snowboarding groups that organized and elevated the sports, has died. He was 74.
Allen, who was the special events manager at Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, died of emphysema Feb. 14 at Redlands Community Hospital, his son, Robert, said.
A former rodeo cowboy, Allen set out to civilize surf culture after starting a surfing team at El Toro High School in Lake Forest in the early 1970s.
“I’d never come across a sport that needed so much help,” Allen told The Times in 1987. “Surfing had a bad image, and a lot of kids who got involved in surfing tried to live up to that.”
With four other surf coaches, Allen formed the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. in 1978 to oversee competition.
Since many surfers were students, he decided that tying academic achievement to eligibility could help clean up the sport’s “dropout beach-bum image,” said Janice Aragon, executive director of the association.
The academic standards “quickly brought on a huge new level of respect and legitimacy to the sport,” Aragon wrote in an e-mail to The Times. “His vision was brilliant.”
The organization required athletes to stay in school and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to compete, a practice that remains in place.
As a newly retired Huntington Beach bank executive, Allen moved to Green Valley Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains in the late 1980s and embraced another pursuit seemingly defined by renegades — snowboarding.
With $500 from Transworld Snowboarding magazine, he founded what is now known as the United States of America Snowboard Assn. in 1988 to oversee local and national contests.
At a time when many resorts banned snowboarding, he reasoned that the sport needed a recognized farm system if it were to become an Olympic sport, his son said.
A decade later, snowboarding made its Winter Olympics debut at Nagano, Japan. The U.S. athletes who competed there in 1998 could trace their starts to the snowboarding association, according to the group, which hosts hundreds of regional and national events a year.
When the association held its first national championships in 1990 at Snow Valley, heavy snow closed the roads leading to the competition in the San Bernardino Mountains. After he led a caravan that sneaked competitors past police barricades to the slopes, Allen became something of a legend in snowboarding circles.
At Mountain High, he had been special events manager for many of the last dozen years.
“His philosophy was that even if it was a little weekend event, we’d roll out the red carpet,” said John McColly, the resort’s director of marketing, “and you’d think you were at the Olympics.”
He was born Charles Lee Allen on Sept. 13, 1936, in Enid, Okla., to Andrew Allen and the former Edna Mae Moore. His parents divorced when he was young.
Growing up in Oklahoma, he rode horses and competed in rodeos.
After attending Phillips University in Enid, he moved to Long Beach in the mid-1950s and was soon a bank collections officer. Later, he studied banking and finance at Santa Ana College.
By his late 20s, he had a career in banking in San Juan Capistrano, and his two sons became avid surfers. He followed them onto the waves.
When a move inland to Trabuco Canyon upset his surfing offspring, Allen agreed to start and coach a surf team at El Toro High School.
From 1981 to 1988, he coached Huntington Beach High School’s surf team to many state and national championships.
Clad in a three-piece suit and Ugg boots, the surfer-banker would stand on shore and watch his team practice before heading off to work.
The twice-divorced Allen had recently moved from Wrightwood to Yucaipa for his health.
Allen is survived by Christine, his wife of 28 years; six children from his first marriage, Robert, Daymond, Patrick, Russell and Randy Allen, and Sunday Johnston; a son, Brandon, from his second marriage; three stepchildren, Darrel and Jeff Hubis and Michelle Masner; a brother, Duke; a sister, Billie Beck; and 14 grandchildren.
A paddle-out memorial will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Huntington Beach Pier.
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