Surfer to cement history

Things were quite different when Randy Lewis surfed for the first time 49 years ago.

There was no video, no Internet, no media hoopla surrounding surfing, the way the sport is covered from all angles today, he said. Lewis is far from complaining. In fact, he said he's more than thrilled about the exposure and coverage today's surf athletes and the sport are receiving.

On Friday, Lewis will receive his just due when he steps into the limelight to be inducted into surfing lore.

At 10 a.m., the lifelong Huntington Beach resident will become a lifetime member of the Surfers' Hall of Fame in front of Huntington Surf & Sport at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway. He's part of a class that includes Australia natives Ian "Kanga" Cairns and Stephanie Gilmore.

"This is probably one of the best things that has happened to me," said the 60-year-old. "I'm very humbled by the honor. Aaron Pai and everyone at Huntington Surf & Sport has been so wonderful. I'm beyond thrilled.

"I'm proud to be part of this class. I represent the past. Ian represents the present — he's done so much with bringing a professionalism to surfing in the U.S., and he brought a scholastic angle to surfing in schools with the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Assn.). Believe me, if I was in school then, I'd have been a scholar. And Stephanie, she is the future. She's a world champion and enjoying a great career. To have all these generations of surfers here makes it a special day."

Lewis, Gilmore and Cairns will each receive a piece of the sidewalk on Main Street where they will place their hand and foot prints, along with a message and signature, on their individual tile. They will bring the Hall of Fame tile total to 43, to go along with the two Hall of Fame plaques dedicated to the late Carl Hayward and Dick Baker, who grace the area.

"To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is really special," Gilmore said Monday. "I always try to watch it every year and to see all of the icons and heroes in surfing history be honored. It's so cool. I don't believe I've achieved enough to be inducted next to the legends so quickly, but I'm very excited to have my own piece of land in HB."

"This class is really special in that it connects 50 years of surfing," said Pai, the owner of Huntington Surf & Sport. "Randy was a great surfer and learned how to shape under the legendary Gordie Duane. Ian, showing us how to surf the North Shore on Oahu and laying the blueprint for the U.S. Open of Surfing, and Stephanie, who is the reigning three-time world champion, they all share a common thread — a love for the sport of surfing."

Pai said the inspiration for the Surfers' Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in 1997, came from Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

"Some of the sport's greats could be cemented here forever," he said. "The Surfers' Hall of Fame is all about giving future generations the chance to come and experience a little slice of our culture, on our little corner of Main Street and PCH."

The Surfers' Hall of Fame wasn't around when Lewis walked down the street from his parents' house, the one that Forrest and Mary Jane Lewis still live in on Huntington Street, to surf for the first time.

It wouldn't be the last time he would make that walk. Soon, he was the talk of surfing. Lewis won't tell you, but he was a young phenom and grew to become a local legend.

He began surfing in 1961 and started competing in the boys' 14-and-under division of local contests and was a perennial top finisher in those events. He won the West Coast Championships in both 1976 and 1977 and, in the next two years, took the San Onofre Surf Club title. He's also a member of the famed "Hole in the Wall Gang," a gathering of veteran Huntington Beach surfers who didn't regularly compete on the contest circuit.

You think Lewis has some stories to tell?

"I was so influenced by all the great surfers who came through Huntington Beach," Lewis said. "I was a young kid myself, and it was the end of the longboard era. Bud Llamas was a pro surfer who did very well in both the pro ranks and the NSSA. He was one of the top high school surfers around.

"We had a lot of fun. Back in those days, there wasn't all the media you see today. If you were in a magazine, you were lucky. The sport has evolved so much. That's why I had a surf shop, so that I can stay involved with a sport that I love."

Lewis said that in the mid-1960s, he learned the art of board shaping from Duane. From 1977-87, he owned and operated Randy Lewis Surf Center on 5th Street. Among those to ride his boards were Llamas, John Boozer, Michael Ho and Joey Hawkins.

Lewis, who has worked for the past 27 years in the city's public works department, still shapes today — "mostly custom boards," he said — at Chuck Dent Surf Center on 5th Street.

"Randy is one of the best shapers to come out of Huntington Beach and was one of the surfing greats," Pai said. "He is so deserving of being in the Hall of Fame. We're really honored to have him."

Lewis only retired from surfing competitively three years ago when, at age 57, he won his division in his final event, the City of Huntington Beach Championships.

"I'm officially retired from competition but still want to surf, especially when the sun's out and the waves look good," he said, adding with a chuckle, "except, now, I go out about 10 in the morning. None of that 'early stuff,' anymore."

Lewis will be joined at Friday's induction ceremony by his wife, Jicki, parents, children Shane, Justin and Chris Johnson, sister Alison and her family, and grandchildren Tayden, Ryland and newborn Jewyl.

"It's going to be a special day, to have everyone there," Lewis added. "To think that all those years ago, when my did and I got a piece of foam and some fiberglass and went out in our backyard and made my first surfboard, that it has come to this. Somehow, we made that thing float. Boy, that was a long time ago and such a great memory. It's been a great ride all the way through."

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