Hermosa Beach honors legends of surfing past at its Surfer’s Walk of Fame
Liz Benavidez just wanted to be one of the boys when she started surfing with her brother Michael and his friends at age 14 at the Hermosa Beach Pier. The year was 1976 — in the midst of the short-board revolution, when there really weren’t a lot of female surfers, she said.
By 1981, she became a professional surfer, earning a strong reputation over the next seven years on the circuit. She was admired for her hard-charging style, especially at Oahu’s north shore Sunset Beach, which produces some of the biggest waves on the planet.
“Surfing in the 1970s and ’80s wasn’t easy for female surfers,” Benavidez said. “It was difficult for me and other female surfers to secure sponsors to travel around the world and compete.”
On Saturday, April 27, Benavidez was inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame, joining 84 other names already engraved in plaques on the city’s pier since 2003. Only a handful of them are women.
Benavidez joined three other inductees on Saturday, including Ronnie Garner from the golden age of surfing in the 1960s, longtime surfboard shaper and waterman Pat Ryan and surf-rock musicians and pop-culture icons The Beach Boys.
“My hope is that I helped pave the way for women surfing and what it’s become today,” Benavidez told the crowd who gathered on Saturday for the induction ceremony. “Last year, the World Surfing League finally started rewarding equal prize money for men and women… My heart is happy to receive this beautiful plague.”
To earn a spot on the Surfer Walk of Fame, inductees are voted on by current members. Considerations relate to a person’s surfing accomplishments as well as his or her contributions to the surfing community, said Derek Levy, who was inducted in 2015.
Ronnie Garner, for his part, was a member of The Dewey Weber Competition Team in the 1960s. In 1967, Gardner was ranked 16th best surfer in the world by Surfer Magazine, and a year later he was drafted by the Army, cutting short his professional surfing career.
“Growing up around here was unbelievable,” Garner said. “This induction is a mind blower. I grew up with all the old guys surfing with them, but I never considered myself a part of them. I just tried to blend in.”
Among those who came out to honor the inductees and take part in the Spyder Surf Festival on Saturday was 92-year-old Tom Price, whose name is on the Surfer Walk of Fame for his contributions to life-guarding.
Price’s first surfboard, in 1944, was made out of plywood.
“In the 1930s when I was a little kid, at 28th Street in Manhattan there were about two or three men who rode these great big paddle boards with cork in the nose,” Price said. “As kids we would play on them. It was just a matter of time before we got out there.”
Pat Ryan, another inductee on Saturday, is credited with shaping more than 25,000 surfboards. He earned the nickname Gumby for his lanky style of riding a wave.
Ryan, also a pioneering wind surfer, got his start in the business at age 15 shaping boards for Greg Noll, one of the industry’s first surfboard makers.
In the 1960s, Noll along with Weber, Hap Jacobs and a few others shaped the majority of surfboards produced anywhere in the world at that time out of shops on Cypress Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Today at age 66, Ryan is still shaping boards from a shop on the same street.
“People ask me if it’s been busy,” Ryan said. “Compared to what we used to have, heck no. We used to export boards across the world and now all kinds of boards are imported. That’s a little bittersweet, but it’s just the fact of life.”
One of the best things about the Surfer Walk of Fame, according to Ryan, “Those plagues aren’t tombstones,” he said with a laugh.
Members of Beach Boys or representatives of the band did not attend the event, officials said.