The Beach Blog
by Bill Longenecker
Posted May 13, 2012
On May 5 and 6, the Wave Masters surfing club held their 29th annual surf contest. This year's event was dedicated to one of the club's founders, Bill Hixon. For 25 years Hixon's Surf Shop was a center for this area's surf community.
About 75 of us took part in a "paddle-out" ceremony to honor him. We formed a large circle and tossed flowers into the center.
The area's first surfing club was called the 20th Street Surf Club, circa 1961. Randy Tucker, Harry Dickinson, Bubba Mullis, and George Grandy were the first young surfers of the "modern" era of fiberglass and foam surfboards.
They surfed at Neptune Beach's Seagate Ave., aka 20th Avenue North for Jacksonville Beach. My only memory of that club was seeing their tee shirt.
In 1963, I was part of a group that formed Oceanside Surf Club. Bruce Clelland, Johnny Mobley, Bill Perry, and others chose the name despite its use by a city in California. Someone free hand sketched a logo in his own stylish font. It was sewn onto navy blue warm-up jackets at the club's expense.
We were high school kids, but we earned the money by renting Bruce Brown surf movies. They were shown in the old Community Center on the corner of Second Street and Beach Boulevard. Bruce would later make and show "The Endless Summer" live at the Beaches Theater in 1964.
Before that he had made several 35mm movies like "Surfing Hollow Days." We charged a dollar and showings were well attended.
We proudly wore those jackets and did little else except surf. Membership was by invitation and majority vote. Meetings were held in member's homes monthly. We were pretty tame, no alcohol or tobacco at the meetings. Mostly, we just sat around and talked about "stuff".
I left for a year in California in August, 1965 and lost contact with the club. When I returned in July, 1966, Utika Surf Club was "the" club to join. It had been formed a few months after Oceanside. Its name is rumored to have come from a space heater!
Utika Surf Club actually met in the Neptune Beach old city hall council chambers upstairs. Membership was also by majority vote. I was voted in and do not remember any proposed person being denied membership.
By then, many of us were young adults. Most were in high school, but some were in college or actually working. It was an amazing time. We all surfed every possible minute, but Utika was far more formal than Oceanside.
One day circa 1968, a kid came to my door and said that Oceanside was being re-formed. I gave him my old jacket with its stylish stitched font. I don't know who he was and now regret that nice gesture only because it was such a fine relic of my past.
Utika was somewhat naive and yet innovative when we decided to sponsor a surf contest. We called it the Utika First Annual Invitational Surf Contest. We decided that if we sent out printed invitations to the state's top surfers they would come.
They did come! They even paid their own way to be part of an event held at what is now Hanna Park. Mike Tabling, Claude Coggins, Bruce Valuzzi, Gary Propper, Flea Shaw and the cream of local talent like Larry Miniard, Bruce Clelland, Joe and Vincent Roland, and even, I were placed into heats. That first contest was held in good surf. The second and third annual events would follow.
Utika was quite unique. We once took every member to big buffet at the exclusive Le Chateau restaurant in Atlantic Beach. We proudly dressed up (for surfers!) and our behavior was impeccable as we took up the second story banquet area. We tipped our two waiters over $20. (It was 1968.)
Another time, the club paid for an ice skating session at the old Jacksonville Coliseum. Joe Roland put his incredible surf skills to work and instantly became our best skater.
Utika Surf Club slowly faded away and I don't know why. I am proud that we were a self-governing group that never let a club bureaucracy get in the way of our dedication to surfing.
Wave Masters formed in the early 1980's with the goal to show that adults could surf and be professionals in other fields as well.
My white Utika jacket is still crumpled up in my dresser.
You can reach Bill with your comments at (904) 246-0417 and email@example.com