Greg Browning gives thanks, audience thanks him back during 2024 Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame Ceremony

Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2024 inductees David Nuuhiwa, Greg Browning and Mike Balzer. Photo by Malia Balzer

Greg Browning thanks 15 pages worth of friends and supporters for his Hermosa Surfer Walk of Fame induction. The audience urged him on

by Kevin Cody

The Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame induction ceremony at the Hermosa Pier on Saturday, April 27 was both celebratory and overwhelmingly poignant. The inductees were David Nuuhiwa, Mike Balzer and Greg Browning.

Browning was diagnosed a year ago this month with ALS.

Nuuhiwa was the first to be inducted. The Hawaiian native has the bearing and athleticism of Duke Kahanamoku. He is arguably the greatest longboarder of all time.

Mike Balzer was the second inductee. He follows in the lineage of Hermosa Beach surf photographers Doc Ball, who documented the kookbox surfers of the 1940s and 1950s, and Leroy Grannis, whose longboard photos of the Golden Era of Surfing in the 1950s and 1960s are now a Taschen coffee table book. Balzer photographed the shortboard revolution of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. His camera board photo of Rob Machado in the barrel on a board airbrushed with an image of Jimi Hendrix is the most famous cover ever of a surfing magazine. He also shot Browning’s first surf magazine cover.

Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2024 inductee Greg Browning, with brother Jeff.

Browning was inducted last. He walked to the microphone unaided, but with his older brother Jeff by his side. His signature squeaky voice warbled more than normal, but was clear. When occasionally his voice faltered, his brother would ask the crowd, ‘Should Greg go on?’ The crowd roared encouragement. Reinvigorated, Greg went on.Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2024 inductee Greg Browning, with brother Jeff.He said barely a word about his illness. He barely said a word about himself and his career as a pro surfer, filmmaker of the Drive Thru surf movies for Fox Cable and Fuel TV,  and personal videographer for surf celebrity Jamie O’Brien, and surfing world champions Marissa Moore, and Tatiana Weston-Webb.

Instead, he thanked people, not in the dutiful manner of Academy Award winners, but as though he was speaking privately to the person, unconscious of the 500 people listening in.

Browning began by acknowledging the paradox of his situation.

Greg Browning (xecuting his  signature front-side snap, 1990, Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Photo by Mike Balzer

“This speech is a combination of saying too much, and thanking too many, and not thanking enough. I’m going to do my best to do my best,” he said.

(His thank yous were 15 pages long. They have been edited here for length, with consideration for people local readers are likely to be familiar with.)

Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2024 inductee David Nuuhiwa. Photos by Malia Balzer

“Keith Brewer, Derek Brewer and Matt Walls, I’m here because of you. You inspired me, supported me, made fun of me, and pulled me into more closeouts and more shitty waves than anybody I’ve met in my entire life. 

“To my best friend Jack Doolittle. Since Miss Horton’s third grade class at North School, I was cool because my best friend was Jack Doolittle. Going over to the Doolittle house for the first time was the most real part of Hermosa Beach I’ve ever experienced in my life. There was Christine, Yvette, Johnny, Jack, Nancy, Amparito and John. There were skateboards, bikes, surfboards, a dart board, Star Wars toys, video games, pancakes on Sunday, and a box of See’s candy on the coffee table. We all slept in the same room every weekend, watching movies until we fell asleep. So much of my outlook on life is because of the Doolittles. Kind, loving and unafraid. 

Greg Browning on a 1995 photo shoot. Photo by Mike Balzer

“Reese Patterson, my first surf coach. Your actions showed me the value of paying it forward. I wanted to be a pro surfer because of you. Minus the part of pulling into closeouts at maxed out Pipe. 

“I want to thank every person who owns, owned, worked at, or hung out at a surf shop when I was growing up. I met some of the coolest people at our shops. Thank you for letting this latch-key kid into your world. 

“Ted Robinson. My first surf team manager. Also the person who gave me the nickname ‘Geebs’ (based on his initials). You are still to this day the most frothed-out grom I know, even more than the Brewers. 

“Dennis Jarvis. You are a big idea guy. I was so stoked to be a part of one of those big ideas. The surfboard revolution you created around the world and the opportunity you gave  me was pivotal in my life. We had the greatest surfers in the world riding our brand. Ross Williams, Benji Weatherley, Conan Hayes, CC Betchloff, Frankie Oberholzer, Byron Howarth, Travis Molina, Sean Hayes, Ben Bourgeois, even Tom Curren. How did we do that? We had Dickie O’Reilly with us. 

“Dickie, without a question, you connected Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach to Redondo Beach to Torrance Beach. I wouldn’t hesitate to add Palos Verdes in there, also. Taking over the high school league from John Joseph was one of the coolest, most selfless things I’ve ever seen anybody do.

Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2024 inductee Mike Balzer.

“Mike Balzer. Your fearless approach to life was so infectious and undeniable, from the minute I met you. You gave me the best opportunities every single day we spent together. To share this day with you, up on this stage, just makes sense on so many levels. 

“Howard Eddy. My inspiration for filming. In a time when nobody got to see themselves on video, he gave us that opportunity. We not only learned to be better surfers, but also how to take constructive criticism from friends. I mean shit talking. He filmed us almost every day, from the time I was 13, until he passed away, when I was 23. Howard, you allowed me to turn my passion for surfing into a profession, which really meant I would never have to work a day in my life. 

“I want to add one other thing here. During those video sessions, Ty Cukr, who was one of my idols at the time, gave me the best surfing advice I had ever heard. He said, “Don’t just watch the good waves, watch everything you did wrong and see how you can do it better.” 

Greg Browning with Ry Craike, Bruce Irons, Dane Reynolds, Matt Beauchesne Dude Cruise reviewing video he shot from the backseat of a pick up truck dirven by Irons at it rolled into the surf. Photo by Mike Balzer

“Now it’s time to talk about the Drive-Thru movies. The Drive-Thru was a fantastic blur. I pretended I knew everything just to get the chance to go on another surf trip with my best friends and some of my surfing heroes. 

“Thank you Benji, Donavon, Rob, Pat, Kalani, Shane, Alex Gray, Barney, Timmy, Noodles, Losness, Yaden, Ry, Rizal, Andy, Griffin, Dane, Parker, Eric, Hendrix, Pottz, Occy, Steve Irwin, Billy Mystic, and Kelly. 

“The Meistrell family and Body Glove. Thank you for believing in me. 

“From team rider to employee, to entrusting me with preserving your family’s legacy. 

“Ronnie Meistrell, thank you for giving me a job at Body Glove. Over 30 years of fun. A dream come true for a grom from Hermosa Beach. 

“Robbie Meistrell. Thank you for allowing me to dream, and teaching me balance in work and life. You always made sure the pot was right. 

“Billy Meistrell. You understand the importance of family and legacy more than anyone I have ever met. And you have passed that on to me, and I am forever grateful to you. 

“Jenna Meistrell-Thom. You carry the family tradition proudly and have been an incredible friend. 

Greg Browning is congratulated upon his induction into the Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame by Councilmember Raymond Jackson. Photo by Malia Balzer

“Russ Lesser. Thank you for everything you did for all of us at Body Glove. You know you work at the right place when the president of the company drives a convertible Volkswagen Thing to work everyday. True Beach Trash and proud of it. 

“Scott Daley. You supported every idea – good and bad. You were never afraid to take a bullet for any of us.

“Scott Smith. Whose business card read Whatever Greg Tells Me to Do Guy. Thank you for being gone the day we got those printed. I’m still laughing. You made us more professional while still being unprofessional. You were the best dive buddy, the best work partner and a great friend. 

“John De Temple. Known on my phone as Temple Batline. Because you could save every project I ever made. 

“And this club wouldn’t be complete without Redbeard, Cheyne Magnusson. You are too good at everything you do. It’s unfair to the rest of us. You were also right about every team rider you sponsored including Cole Houshman, Nolan Rapoza and Tatiana Weston-Webb. 

“Alex Gray. Big Al. Baby teeth, JTDub squared. Uncle Alex. I’ve been honored to film your whole surfing career. You kept this old dog going. You surpassed any and all expectations and came out with humility, gratitude and respect for everyone. Without a doubt, you are the best surfer ever from the South Bay. 

“But, you are still a shitty dive buddy. 

“Les Congelliere, Redondo High’s legendary surf coach. Without Cong and surf class, I would have never graduated high school and my mom would have never let me chase this dream. 

Greg Browning with step dad Larry, mom Dinah and sons Parker and Drew at the South Bay Boardriders Big Wave Challenge awards night in 2016. Photo by Mike Balzer

“To my family. The Brownings, the Linskys, the Goldens and the Larys. 

Mom. You moved us to Hermosa kicking and screaming at age 7. I had no idea that moment would lead to all of this. Thanks for all the wooden spoons, the ping pong paddles, my first skateboard, letting us build a half-pipe in the backyard, and telling us to always, ‘Go play outside.’ Thanks for working so hard to make this life possible for us. 

“Thanks, also, for bringing us Larry Lary, an incredible step dad and grandpa. 

“Dad. Thanks for keeping our family so connected. Thanks for teaching us how to build skateboard ramps and use power tools. Thanks for showing us Sherlock Holmes, hobby stores, and most importantly, teaching us to never be afraid to ask a question, because the worst thing someone could say is “No” and we can handle that. 

“Thank you for bringing Ginny and her family into our lives. 

“This award is for our whole family. 

“Jeff. My big brother. I learned everything from you. Whatever you did, I wanted to do. You were the greatest teacher and my biggest fan. I feel like my whole life was happening just to make you proud of me. You taught me how to be a great father when you had Colby and Grayson. 

“Thank you for bringing Andrea and the Calhoun family into our lives. 

“To my wife Carrie. The last 10 years have been an amazing adventure. I knew after the first time you saw my Star Wars room, and didn’t run, that we would be together forever. Thank you for doing yoga with me every morning from across the world while I was in quarantine in Australia. Thank you for leading the way on this crazy road ahead of us. I could not imagine what this life would be like without you. I love you. 

“Aiden and Austin. I love being your stepdad. Thanks for letting me hang out in the man cave. 

“To the entire Nitkin family, thank you for welcoming me in. 

Greg Browning (center) with his 16th Street crew (foreground) Chris Pollock and Keith Brewer, and (standing) Matt Walls, Jack Doolittle, Dickie O’Reilly and Derek Brewer. Photo courtesy of the Brewers

“To my boys. My legacy, Drew and Parker You guys are the best movie I ever made. I’m so proud of the men you have become. I know this life I’ve led hasn’t been ordinary. We traveled a lot, had a lot of house guests and you two had to share everything you owned with everybody. 

“You never complained. 

“Just like how I was raised, I tried to build you guys a village. Always remember that the village will be here for the rest of your life. 

“I asked a good friend the other day, “How do you define a successful life?” 

“He said one word: “Family.” Peff Eick, you are absolutely right. 

Greg Browning takes a break during Saturday’s Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame inductions. Seated with him are fellow 2024 Walk of Fame inductees David Nuuihiwa, and Mike Balzer, and Browning’s brother Jeff. Photo by Malia Balzer.

“This family, this village, it’s everything to me. 

“I know that this life, and especially this last year would have looked a lot different without all of you, my village. 

“Thank you. This award is for all of you. 

The audience from throughout the surfing world rose to their feet in tribute. ER

Comments:

comments so far. Comments posted to EasyReaderNews.com may be reprinted in the Easy Reader print edition, which is published each Thursday.