Pro surfer Ronnie Garner: 2019 Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame inductee
by Mike Purpus
Ronnie Garner started surfing on surf mats at 31st Street in Hermosa Beach when he was 6 years old. He graduated to a surfboard when he was 8.
“I lived on the beach all summer and surfed everyday, including in winter, borrowing old boards off the beach. I wanted a new board but my mother couldn’t afford one, after feeding me and my two sisters. She said if I got straight A’s she would buy me one. She knew I would never give up the waves to get perfect marks in school.”
Ronnie surfed with Pete Briggs and myself. We had new surfboards but Ronnie was forced to ride old beat up boards nobody else wanted. Despite his beat up boards, he surfed the best of all of us.
Mr. Lawton, an old, retired Air Force Colonel, lived on The Strand. One day he asked me why we had new surfboards and Ronnie was surfing on an old surfboard. I told him Ronnie’s mom couldn’t afford a new board. The following day the Colonel gave Ronnie a check for $75 and told him to buy a new board. Ronnie tried to give the check back but the Colonel wouldn’t take it. Then Ronnie’s mom tried to give the check back but the Colonel still wouldn’t take it. Ronnie knew shaper Bing Copeland so he went over to Bing’s house to make a deal on a new Bing Surfboard. The only stipulation the Colonel had was that Ronnie had to keep the new Bing at his house so we would continue to visit with him after surfing.
Ronnie’s surfing improved dramatically.He became a consistent contest finalist, making the top 10 in the junior division. He surfed for Bay Area Surf Club and became a test pilot for South Bay Surf Shop’s new Wishbone Fin design. (The fin didn’t work). He also surfed on The Dewey Weber Competition Team, competing up and down the coast and traveling to Hawaii with me for 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. He joined The Rick Surfboards Team along with Dru Harrison (Surfer Walk of Fame 2003), Tiger Makin (Surfer Walk of Fame 2010) and Hawaiian standout Barry Kanaiaupuni.
John Sheintira, one of Garner’s surfing buddies, was the rub out and surfboard boxing guy for Rick Surfboards. He made a weird looking board in his garage. The board looked so strange he cut out the letters UFO from old stickers and put them under the Rick Surfboards sticker on the deck of his creation. Sheintira let Ronnie try the board on a crowded day at 26th Street in Manhattan. Rick Surfboard’s salesman John Lenninger (Surfing Walk of Fame 2016) remembers the day. “It was crazy. All these surfers saw Ronnie ripping on this weird looking board and came running in the shop to order one. Nobody at Rick Surfboards knew what they were talking about,” Leninger said. The UFO Model became Rick’s best selling model.
In 1967 he was ranked 15th in the Surfer Magazine poll, and the following year was shipped off to Germany by the Army. When he returned to California, the shortboard revolution had taken hold. He stuck to longboarding,and continued to do well in the few longboard contests that remained.
Garner bartended at Critter’s Bar for 30 years before becoming a trucker, driving 18-wheelers for the movie studios and Winnebago’s for the stars. Today, he is retired living in Corona and surfing San Onofre. ER SWOF
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