by Corky Carroll
Coming up on Friday, August 2nd, will be the annual SURFERS HALL OF FAME induction ceremony. As part of the week long Vans U.S. Open of Surfings list of great activities, this is one of the coolest to attend and important. It will be held at 9 AM in the Surfers Hall of Fame plaza on the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, directly in front of Huntington Surf ‘n Sport, who puts it on.
This years inductees are Janice Aragon, Kai Lenny and legendary Huntington Beach local Sam Hawk. I told you about Janice and Kai over the past two weeks and have saved Sam for today. When I saw the list of who was getting the nod this year I had to smile when I saw Sam’s name. I was also a little surprised, not because he doesn’t deserve it, he truly does, but because he is not really all that well known outside of the circle of hard core and longtime surfers. Unless you are from Huntington Beach, then the guy is like total local surf lore and royalty. And I was really stoked to see it there too, having known of him since he first started getting good in the 1960’s. Sam is not quite as old as me, but close.
As far as personal history goes Sam was born in South Gate in 1950, but grew up in Huntington Beach, a pier rat, along with his brothers Tom and Chris. All three turned out to be great surfers, with Sam being the standout. Sam came to the North Shore of Oahu in 1967 and almost immediately caught all of our attention, the kid could really surf. He used to hang out with Craig “Owl” Chapman a lot and the two of them seemed to always be getting deeper and showing more guts than just about anybody. Owl became famous for his bold “hood ornament” poses, while Sam just had a purely great style and seemingly endless desire to explore the deepest, darkest and most dangerous places on the biggest days at places like Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Sam was the standout at the “Expression Session,” held at Pipeline in 1970. It was a big and perfect day with the top surfers in the world invited to “express.” Well, Sam just kinda expressed all over everybody. There was a lot of “Wow, who is this guy?,” kinda stuff goin on that day.
The best description of Sam Hawk that I ever heard was from a 2014 story in SURFER magazine by Matt Warsaw. “Give me the DNA know-how and a pair of med students in lab coats, and I would love to take a crack at building the perfect ’70s surfer. I would call him…Sam Hawk. Because that is the best surfer name ever. Now toss over a petri dish and a gene splicer, let’s get to it! Start with a nice fat wet strand of Terry Fitzgerald. Add a little John Peck. Barry Kanaiaupuni, of course. Little more BK. Little more. OK, good. Buzzy Trent’s chest and arms, scaled down 15 percent. Buzzy Trent’s cajones, full-size. Breweresque skill with the planer. Robert Redford hair, eyes, jawline, and bang! We’re done.
Sam Hawk was the missing link between the Mount Rushmore Hawaiians (Lopez, Hakman, Reno, BK), and the Bustin’ Down the Door gang (Shaun, Bugs, MR) who followed. Powerful and fearless. Stylish from here to next year. White trunks, white board, a late-takeoff-to-deep-bottom-turn line at Pipeline so clean and pure and perfect that you need a French curve to render it properly. As a backside tube rider, he was, almost to the day, four years ahead of his time. Took Shaun and Michael Tomson combined to finally better Hawk’s mark at Pipe.”
SURFERS HALL OF FAME founder Arron Pai says, “Back in the day my surfing buddies and I used to watch Sam Hawk in the dead of Winter during huge swells as he swam around the HB Pier (in just speedos) staying fit for Big Wave Surfing. Sam is a home grown Surfing Legend!”
That pretty much sums it up. The ceremony is free and open to the public, you should go.