Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2019: a shaper, two pro surfers and The Beach Boys
by Kevin Cody
Surfboard shaper Pat Ryan, former pro surfers Liz Benavidez and Ronnie Garner, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Beach Boys will be inducted in the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame on Saturday. The inductions will be held on the Hermosa Beach Pier at 11 a.m.
A reception for the inductees will be hosted by the South Bay Boardriders Club and the Hermosa Beach Historical Society on Friday evening, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Hermosa Beach Historical Museum, at 710 Pier Ave. The reception will be followed by the Boardriders’ contest series and Big Wave Challenge awards, the high school surf league awards, and a screening of the winter 2018-19 Brad Jacobson film “Chasing Lions.”
Following Saturday morning’s inductions, the 13th Annual Spyder Fest will be held on Pier Plaza, featuring live music and surf industry vendors
Ryan has been a shaper for ET Surfboards for nearly 50 years.
“I used to hang out at the Greg Noll store on PCH,” Ryan said. “One day an employee didn’t make it in and I became a salesman.” Ryan quickly moved into production at Noll’s factory on Cypress Avenue, where he learned to shape from Noll and legendary Hawaiian big wave rider George Downing.
In 1972, Ryan began shaping for Nolls’ former shop manager Eddie Talbot, who had opened ET Surf on Aviation Boulevard.
After reflecting on shaping longboards for Noll in the ‘60s, then shortboards for ET in the ‘70s, followed by thrusters in the ‘80s, high performance longboards in the ‘90s and all of the above in the ‘00s, Ryan said board design today is more interesting than ever.
“Surfers are more educated about design,” he said. “Kids get on a PC with an idea for a new shape, and if it works, they give it a name.
“People don’t just ask for a 6-foot square tail. They talk about wider noses, narrower tails, and fin placement,” he explained.
“When people talk to me about the ‘good old days,’ I tell them, ‘The good old days’ are right now.”
Liz and Mike Benavidez will become the first brother and sister to have plaques on the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame when Liz receives her plaque during Saturday’s inductions. Mike, a former professional surfer, received his plaque on the pier in 2015.
Liz Benavidez is the South Bay’s most successful pro female surfer. She started surfing at the Hermosa Beach pier with her brother in 1976, when she was 14.
She joined the pro tour in 1980, when she was 18, after satisfying her mom’s demand that she graduate from Mira Costa High School.
Her first pro contest was the Women’s Offshore Masters, at Sunset Beach, Oahu. She placed 5th and was named ISP (International Surfing Professionals) Rookie of the Year. In 1981, she finished second in the ISP world rankings, behind the legendary Margo Oberg.
In 1982, she placed third at the Bells Contest in Victoria, Australia and was voted #5 in the Surfer Magazine Reader Poll.
In 1983, she placed 2nd at the OP Pro in Huntington Beach, behind friend and rival Kim Mearig. Mearig won the pro tour title that year. In 1984, Benavidez won the Roxy Pro Gold Coast Contest in Queensland, Australia. In 1985 she won the Stubbies Classic in Burleigh Heads in Queensland, earning the title “Margo Oberg Slayer.” A few weeks later Benavidez finished third at Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
She continued to rank in the top five on the professional tour through 1988.
“I wanted to be one of the boys,” she said in explaining why she took up surfing. “So I grabbed a board nobody was using and a pair of my brother’s trunks and went out with the Hot Lips surf team every time they went out. I was one of the first girls to wear trunks instead of a bathing suit,” she said.
“Because she learned to surf with her brother and Mike Purpus, she surfed like a guy in an era when girl surfers were less aggressive, which both impressed and confused the judges. I caddied for her during a contest at Sunset and saw her fall on a 30-foot wave. She came up with a big grin on her face,” said Kip Jerger (Surfer Walk of Fame 2010).
Ronnie Garner started surfing on surf mats at 31st Street in Hermosa Beach when he was 6 years old. In his teen years, he was a member of the Dewey Weber Competition Team and competed up and down the coast and in Hawaii, including in the Makaha International Surfing Championship.
“I got to surf North Shores Sunset Beach on a 15-foot day. Eddie Aiku was one of the only guys out. He thought I was crazy, being my first time out at Sunset,” Garner recalled from that trip.
Garner had a powerful, Hawaiian style bottom turn, but he also loved nose riding. After competing for Weber, he competed on the Rick Surfboards Team along with Dru Harrison (Surfer Walk of Fame 2003) and Tiger Makin (Surfer Walk of Fame 2010).
After serving in the Army, he returned to competitive surfing and also coaching rising surf stars, including future World Champion Rolf Arness a U.S. Junior Champion Mark Levy (Surfer Walk of Fame 2012).
The Beach Boys’ contribution to surfing and surfing’s contribution to The Beach Boys will be recognized when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame.
“It’s where we wrote so much of our early music. I can remember the first song I ever wrote, ‘Surfer Girl,’ with those beaches in mind,” Brian Wilson, who grew up in Hawthorne, told BeachLife magazine writer Jeff Vincent. Wilson will perform Saturday night at the BeachLife festival in Redondo Beach. ER
by Kevin Cody
Kevin is the publisher of Easy Reader and Beach. Share your news tips. 310 372-4611 ext. 110 or kevin[at]easyreadernews[dot]com