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Newest members of Surfers’ Hall of Fame cement their legacies in Huntington Beach

Three surfing celebrities literally left their mark in Huntington Beach on Friday morning.

A crowd gathered at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway to watch Ben Aipa, Herbie Fletcher and Brett Simpson put their hands, feet and signatures in cement in front of Huntington Surf and Sport as part of the Surfers’ Hall of Fame 2018 induction ceremony. Each inductee received a bronze trophy.

Hall of Fame founder Aaron Pai described the new members as “amazing ambassadors” for the sport, both on the waves and on land. By leaving their imprints, future generations of surfers will remember them, Pai said.

Fletcher, 70, a Huntington Beach High School alumnus, was the first to be inducted Friday. He founded Herbie Fletcher Surfboards in Dana Point and was among the leaders of the longboard resurgence. Eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater described him as the “greatest longboarder and designer of all time.”

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“I love surfing so much, I gave it all my life,” said Fletcher, who told the crowd he would skip a week of school when the waves were good. “It’s a big honor.”

Aipa, 77, returned to center stage in Huntington a day after he was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in front of Jack’s Surfboards.

The Hawaii-born surfer created a career as a professional surfer, coach and surfboard shaper and is credited with inventing the surfboard swallow tail and adding the “sting,” a wing along the rail ahead of the tail, to make the board go faster.

Sunny Garcia, whom Aipa coached when Garcia was a boy, described him as a “blessing.” With Aipa’s guidance, Garcia went on to become a world champion in 2000.

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“Being part of Huntington Beach has been a big part of my life,” Aipa said. “I’d return every year learning something about the people, place and what makes Huntington Beach tick to see how I can fit it in Hawaii. … Thank you for helping me be a part of this.”

The youngest inductee this year is Huntington Beach High graduate Simpson, 33, who was the first back-to-back winner of the U.S. Open of Surfing in 2009 and 2010.

Huntington Beach High surf team coach Andy Verdone described Simpson as a “local hero” who easily could have succeeded in any sport but “fell in love with surfing.”

Simpson thanked fellow inductees Aipa and Fletcher for paving the way for the next generation of surfers.

“This passion I’ve had for surfing, it took over my life for the good,” Simpson said.

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella


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