Joe Surf: Surf Walk of Fame inductees show their grit, goodness

The Surfing Walk of Fame held its 18th annual induction ceremony last week during the U.S. Open of Surfing, welcoming six new members who made their mark in the surfing world.

They're still making a mark, and I'm not just talking about the granite squares embedded on the sidewalk in front of Jack's with their names on them.

I'm talking about the blood inductee Bill Fury left on the sidewalk.

Fury, the Local Hero inductee, was the first to step in front of the microphone Thursday morning to greet the crowd, which included basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton, gathered at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street.

Fury, known for his noseriding ability, drawn-out bottom turns and stylish cutbacks in the 1960s, regaled the crowd with stories from the past and promised more would be revealed when he completes his book, "It's a Secret."

When he finished, Fury, in his 70s and a victim of a stroke nearly 20 years ago, sat down in a flimsy folding chair on the edge of the stage. The chair's back legs slipped off the stage and sent Fury backward and onto the ground.

The glass trophy Fury was holding shattered and cut his arm. Fury was helped up, but this wasn't his first wipeout. Fury immediately climbed back on stage and grabbed the microphone from program director Peter Townend.

Apparently, the fall reminded Fury of a wipeout he had back in the day.

"I hit the pier and came down with the board under my arm," Fury said. "I hit the pilings like a pinball machine, but I came out a better surfer."

Such is the spirit of the surfers who were inducted, a class Townend called "one of the greatest we've ever had. It covers a wide depth of surf culture all the way back to the '50s."

Townend also paid tribute to Gordie Duane, a legendary Huntington Beach surfboard shaper and member of the Hole in the Wall Gang surf team, which was inducted into the Walk of Fame. Duane, 80, passed away July 27.

Following Fury on stage were Woman of the Year inductees Debbie Beacham and Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, who is better known by her nickname, "Gidget."

"I was in a Navy family and we moved around a lot," Beacham said. "I watched 'Gidget,' so I said to myself, when we move back to California, I'm going to surf. When I rode my first wave, I never looked back."

So true. Beacham was one of the best women's surfers throughout the 1970s and into the early '80s, winning a world title in 1982. After retiring from the tour in 1984, she made sure that girls and women could follow in her footsteps, working hard in the organizing and promoting of women's surfing.

Kohner's story is widely known, the little girl — girl midget = Gidget — who took to the waves with the boys in Malibu in 1956 and began journaling her experiences. Her writer father, Frederick Kohner, turned it into a best-selling novel, which became a movie starring Sandra Dee, and then the TV show starring Sally Field.

Interestingly, Kohner said she "quit surfing" at 18 before getting back in the water recently at the urging of some friends.

"And I was able to get up," she gleamed. "Once a surfer, always a surfer."

The Surfing Culture inductee was Dick Dale, a member of the Del-Tones and known as the "King of the Surf Guitar." Dale's first album, "Surfers' Choice," sold more than 80,000 copies, and the album cover featured a picture of Dale surfing.

"He was the real deal," Townend said when introducing Dale. "He wasn't like the Beach Boys; he surfed."

"In 1955, my buddy and I wanted to check out the gals, so we rode our motorcycles to Huntington Beach," Dale said. "I had a 1941 Harley Davidson Flathead. But we got kicked out. We came back again in a car, and we got kicked out again. The cop said we couldn't sleep in our car."

Dale, who said he lived on 13th Street in downtown Huntington, soon began playing his guitar in a roller rink in the spot where Duke's is now.

Skip Frye, inducted as the Surf Pioneer, was successful competing in contests and won the 1967 Laguna Masters. But he really made his mark as a shaper, coming to a revelation on a trip to Australia.

Frye noticed how the Aussies were maneuvering so well on smaller, 8-foot, wide-backed boards, and when he got back stateside, he became the first Californian to incorporate the Australian-invented V-bottom into his designs.

Now living in San Diego, Frye was amazed at what he saw in Huntington last week.

"I haven't been here since the '60s," he said. "Seeing what's happened, oh my goodness! What a spectacle!"

Now approaching 70, Frye still gets in the water, and in fact took a trip to Costa Rica not too long ago with Rob Machado, who was inducted as the Surf Champion.

Machado has won in Huntington Beach numerous times and been a force on the World Tour for years, yet expressed humility to be included in this year's class.

"I don't feel like I belong up here," Machado said. "It's quite the cast. To be included with this group is mindboggling."

Machado, who has a budding career as a musician, had a memory that involved Dale.

"I was in a punk band and we opened for you," Machado said as he looked at Dale. "We were in a back alley before the show when you pulled up and got on stage, and I was like, 'Yeah. All right.'"

Machado was eliminated from competition in the early rounds of this year's U.S. Open, but you could never tell by looking at him. He still got the chance to be among some of surfing's greats and got in the water throughout the week with the "Surf All-Stars."

Machado, who has been in numerous surf films and on magazine covers, summed it up perfectly in closing.

"It's about the glide," he said. "It's all about the glide."

JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at

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