Dennis Jarvis strained to hear the words through the strong wind, but all the poor microphone and speaker system could produce was a garbled muffle.

Among a small gathering—some standing, others sitting in uncomfortable fold-out chairs—were icons of surf, among them Greg Noll, Hap Jacobs and Dewey Weber’s family.

“This is totally disrespectful of these icons of this sport,” Jarvis, founder of Spyder Surfboards, recalls thinking in the early 2000s, when the Surfer’s Walk of Fame launched near the Hermosa Beach Pier. "I have to do a celebration.”

That was the start of the Spyder Surf Fest—an afternoon of fun that celebrates action-sport and surf—that returns this weekend. It has helped to propel the Surfer’s Walk of Fame into a can’t-miss celebration of surf dignitaries who shaped surf culture in the South Bay and influenced the culture around the world.

This year's Surfer's Walk of Fame inductees include: Ron Garner, Pat Ryan, Liz Benavidez and The Beach Boys.

Surf City, Hermosa Beach?

Surfing began in the Polynesian islands, a sport for kings, but was brought to the mainland at the turn of the 19th century by a few well-known Hawaiians who braved California's colder waters on big wooden boards.

Many coastal towns have battled over the moniker “Surf City,” but Hermosa Beach has just as much history as the towns to the south and north—Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz—which were embroiled in a lawsuit over the nickname, Jarvis said.

While Huntington Beach won the official right to trademark "Surf City" a decade ago, Hermosa Beach has its rightful place in the sport's history books.

Several California coastal towns like to claim that Duke Kahanamoku first rode waves on their shores. But Jarvis said he has long heard it was at 2nd Street in Hermosa Beach that the legendary Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimmer first caught waves in Southern California.

“We all have these stories,” he said.

Hermosa Beach, though, was put on the surfing map in the '60s, when influential board shapers such as Noll, Jacobs and Dale Velzy were making surfboards there and sharing them around the world.

“We were shipping surfboards to Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach,” Jarvis said. “There were some backyard operations, but the progressive movement was coming from 1.3 miles of Hermosa Beach. All of those surfboards, 99 percent, were manufactured in Hermosa Beach.”

Jarvis, a competitive-surfer-turned-surfboard-shaper who opened Spyder Surfshop on Pier Plaza in 1997, said he is glad he’s been a part of the celebration honoring those who came before him.

“I wanted to bring a big-party celebration for these people getting inducted,” Jarvis said.

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Celebrating surf

The festival launches Friday, April 26, with the Surfer’s Walk of Fame kick-off party, the premiere of the film “Chasing Lions” and the Big Wave Challenge Awards, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Hermosa Beach Community Theatre. The party is presented by the Hermosa Beach Historical Society and the South Bay Boardriders Club.

The Big Wave Challenge Awards honors the best ride documented from the “breakwater to El Porto,” Jarvis said.

“Some years, we don’t hold it because waves don’t get over six feet,” he said.

But this year should have some stellar contenders, with several winter swells that turned Torrance Beach and other areas into the "South Bay’s version of Pipeline," he said.

“It brought some attention that there are some big waves in the South Bay,” Jarvis said of the awards, started by renowned South Bay surf photographer Mike Balzer.

On Saturday, April 27, the Surfer’s Walk of Fame ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., followed by the Spyder Surf Festival at about 12:30 p.m. at the Pier Plaza, where there will be musical performances, games and free swag up for grabs.

"If you go down there and you do not walk away with $200 of free stuff, then you didn’t do it right," Jarvis said.

Jarvis, who joined the Walk of Fame judging panel in 2014, said he hopes the annual event continues to grow. Strides have been made in that direction, he said, such as opening up the awards to the whole South Bay, rather than just Hermosa Beach.

He said plans are in the works to move the Surfer's Walk of Fame plaques from the pier—where they are covered in fish guts and bird poop—to near the base of the pier by the wave-riding Tim Kelly lifeguard statue memorial.

Jarvis had hoped to get the plaques placed on Pier Plaza, to create Hermosa's own version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but those plans fizzled.

"Our goal was to grow this thing," he said. "We always want to try and do better than we did the year before."

About this year’s inductees

  • Ron Garner, Pioneer: Garner competed in the '60s and in 1967 was ranked 15th in Surfer Magazine’s Surfer Poll awards. After completing service in the Army, he continued to compete into the '80s, also helping to coach several champion surfers.
  • Pat Ryan, South Bay Legend: Throughout his five-decade career in the South Bay, Ryan has shaped more than 25,000 surfboards. He began working in the Greg Noll factory at age 15 and continued shaping boards “while inspiring and motivating surfers” at ET Surf Shop. The Hermosa Beach resident is also an avid windsurfer and stand-up paddler.
  • Liz Benavidez, Female Legend: Benavidez learned to surf at the Hermosa Beach Pier in 1976 at age 14 and was soon doing amateur contests before making the pilgrimage to Hawaii. Through the '80s, she had many stellar contest results, finishing fifth in the world in 1983-1984 and the following season. She moved to Kauai to raise a family but now is back in the South Bay.
  • The Beach Boys, Cultural Legend: The Beach Boys were formed in Hawthorne in the early 1960s, embodying Southern California’s surf culture. They came out with their first album, “Surfin’ Safari," in 1962. Their surf-rock tunes like “Surfin’ USA” and “Catch a Wave” evoked a world of “sunny beaches, tanned surfers and classic cars,” reads their induction plaque. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and are among the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful rock bands of all time, selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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