ROCK STARS

posted by / News / July 30, 2004

Today’s Surfing Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was bigger and bolder than yesterday’s more low-key Walk of Fame event, but it was not quite as smooth. A crowd of a couple hundred filled with surf industry big wigs gathered around the lei-draped statue of the Duke in front of Huntington Surf and Sport to watch as local and international legends Jack Haley, Jericho Poppler, Mark Occhilupo, Peter Townend and Gerry Lopez were awarded.

Although emcee and two-time inductee Corky Carroll tried to keep the event lively and moving he had a tough time due to technical difficulties. The cement — “flown in from Cairo,”Corky quipped — that the inductees were sinking their hands and feet into took forever to set. Poor Corky and co-host David Stanfield were left to ad lib one-liners while Occy, Lopez and company took off their shoes, looked at their hands and patiently waited. Corky joked that there were 47 pre-event meetings that were supposed to fix any glitches, but an extra-heavy morning marine layer and a chilly south wind conspired to keep the newly poured sidewalk liquid and to throw off the carefully planned schedule.

Oh well, nothing’s ever really fun until something goes wrong. The crowd was still stoked to be face to face with their heroes and the heroes were genuinely honored to be there.

Jack Haley: Surfer, lifeguard, restaurateur, businessman, bull fighting aficionado and father of NBA star and sportscaster Jack Jr. passed away in 2000. Haley Sr., the first ever US Champ and HB legend, was awarded for his restaurants and surf shops that have been Orange County institutions for over thirty years. Carroll and Stanfield both fondly recalled working for big Jack and his wife and children Jeanette, Sandra and Tim happily accepted the award on Haley’s behalf.

Jericho Poppler: 1970 US Champ, dancer, jazz fan, pioneering environmentalist and co-founder of WISA and the Surfrider Foundation and still a hot, ultra aggressive surfer in the lineup in a “loving, motherly kind of way,” said Corky, Poppler, was all smiles at the ceremony. Flanked by her children, she remarked about the changes she’s seen over the years in the sport, “Nobody ever thought it would get this big. We just surfed because it was so much fun.”

Mark Occhilupo: “The Raging Bull,” a pro for 21 years, the oldest world title winner in history and still going strong at 38, (ranked #5 on the WCT right now) made it to the ceremony tired but happy. Occy arrived in Huntington fresh off a 6 A.{{{M}}}. flight was just in time to win his heat at the US Open. Tom Curren did a noble thing by introducing his former nemesis. Curren didn’t pull at Rick Kane by breathlessly introducing him as “Occy, you beat me in the OP Pro twice!” but he did say that the stout Aussie, whom he affectionately referred to as “Mark,” was his favorite surfer. Occy said a few words in a trademark voice that’s still as young his surfing and then sunk his broad, flat size 11s (“Fred Flintstone feet,” he called them) into the wet cement.

Peter Townend: Bronzed Aussie, 1976 World Champ, stunt double in “Big Wednesday,” legendary NSSA coach, effusive surfing commentator (“Whacks it off the top!”), magazine publisher, marketing consultant, founder of Surfing America, 25-year HB local, the list goes on and on for PT. Yesterday, Townend was the ebullient host of the awards; today he was the most emotional recipient of them, choking back tears as he recalled that his late mother always told him, “Be the best that you can be.”

Gerry Lopez: Perennial Pipeline Master, pioneer of Uluwatu, G-land, windsurfing, snowboarding and tow-in surfing, actor (Arnold Shwarzenegger called him the “strongest bag of bones he’s ever met”) former owner of the Pipe House and now local at Mt Hood, Oregon, Lopez was the most iconic inductee today. Today he looked more Zen than ever with grey-flecked hair atop his sleek, graceful frame. Like Occy, everything about him is ageless, timeless. As Corky put it, “his whole life has been stylish, smooth and classy.” Lopez called the ceremony a, “humbling experience and a great honor.” Jamie Tierney

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