Deconstructing Surfing’s Obsession With The Hall Of Fame

by stab July 12, 2017 3 min read

“Fast Eddie is dead.” 

The text hit my phone at 7:30 this morning. Typically, chasing “surf news” is a quixotic endeavour. More often than not, it involves regurgitating press releases, inserting boilerplate quotes and towing the company line, but every once in awhile a story has the potential to stop you in your tracks. The death of Da Hui ringleader Eddie Rothman would be one such story.

A quick scan of social media and news sites and within five minutes it was pretty clear Eddie was, thankfully, still alive (and probably still causing Graham Stabelberg consternation). While grasping at threads regarding the potential untimely death of a North Shore strongman, an email landed. The title read: “Mick Fanning Enters 2017 Surfers’ Hall of Fame.”

This is exactly the type of news that “surf journalists” are supposed to psyche on. Who wouldn’t want to break the story of Fanning getting into the Hall of Fame? The problem is that this announcement was made back in April and they’re just trying to drum up more press. It’s hardly news.

The other problem is that this whole Surfers’ Hall of Fame thing is a huge farce. It’s not like getting into Cooperstown, NY for baseball players. It doesn’t have that kind of clout. There’s no criteria or selection committee. There’s no panel of experts that vote. It’s as incestuous as everything else in the surf industry.

The Surfers’ Hall of Fame is located on the corner of PCH and Main Street in the Orange County hamlet formerly known as Surf City. The “Hall” is directly in front of Huntington Surf and Sport and is chaired by HSS owner Aaron Pai—who presumably lords over the decision-making process. Directly across the street, in front of Jack’s Surf Shop, is the Surfing Walk of Fame. Every summer both shops hold competing ceremonies inducting the next class of arbitrarily selected surfers. Except Barton Lynch, he deserves his plaque!

But these are hardly the only “hall of fame” franchise in surf. There’s an East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame. There’s a New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame. Every year Surfing Australia inducts a new class into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame. If you’re from the islands you could aspire to be on the Hawaii Waterman Walk of Fame. And if you’re from the British Isles, perhaps you could make a case for entry into the Welsh Surfing Hall of Fame. This year South Africa got into the act with their new Surfers’ Circle Walk of Fame. Hell, the International Surfing Museum even has a Surf Dog Walk of Fame.

Anybody else getting the feeling that these things are just dorky marketing ploys?

The point is, maybe it’s time surfing laid off the whole hall of fame thing until they can figure out a way to make it more meaningful. In the press release sent out today regarding Mick’s induction into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame there isn’t even a “yeah, I’m stoked” quote from the three-time world champ. 

I’m sure Mick’s honoured—he’s too professional not to be—but he’s also made it pretty clear over the years he’s not a huge fan of Huntington Beach. The induction ceremony lands right in the middle of the waiting period for the U.S. Open. Which is probably, definitely, absolutely coincidental…

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