2017 New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: From Grassroots Gathering to Next Level

May 24, 2017 • News

Written by Dick “Mez” Meseroll

The second biannual New Jersey Surfing Hall Of Fame (NJSHOF) induction is in the books for 2017, and it only took about a half-hour into the evening’s festivities to see it had gone next level from 2015’s inaugural kick-off party — which, in and of itself, was also a smashing success. Held at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, this year’s version had more of an upscale but not chic-chic ballroom feel with a sell-through of all 500 pre-event  tickets and an estimated 650 attendees overall, in contrast to the 2015 Manasquan-based celebration at the restored Art Deco Algonquin Theatre, which had a more organic, backyard slide show/keg party feel with close to 500 showing up.

This year’s event featured a state senator, big industry sponsors like Vans, Quiksilver, Nixon, and Billabong, special guest of honor and master of ceremonies Peter “PT” Townend, with an unexpected drop-in by Bob McKnight, while the inaugural induction in 2015 really relied on the stoke and kindness of more local and regional backers and a whole lot of goodwill coupled with a heaping helping of volunteerism, which gave it a very strong, we’re-all-in-this-together grassroots DIY feel.

This year’s inductees were given beautiful Nixon watches, hats, HOF T-shirts, and an official State of New Jersey proclamation congratulating them and recognizing their great achievements, while the inaugural class of 2015 were just happy to get a couple of beers and a beautiful handcrafted trophy by Jamie Kelly while basking in the glow of a truly beautiful evening we’d not trade for anything. The glaring similarities, however, were that both induction events had a great vibe, were wall-to-wall in attendance, with local support and boisterous enthusiasm signaling a “Hey, we really think we got something here!” positivity to keep building on, which this year’s event did in spades.

This bodes very well indeed for Jimmy Kirk’s Facebook  brainchild that went viral back in January of 2015 and has produced three great gatherings since, including the off-year “Summer Surfer’s Gala” to keep awareness up and help raise funds as well as recognize our state’s surfers and their accomplishments. This year’s induction class was again stacked to the max and, while you could have made cases for so many other deserving Jersey surfers who were or could be nominated, the cream eventually rose to the top.

This was only accomplished after some very long and hard wrangling by the Hall Of Fame’s 20 “Shoreline Directors” from five separate districts, at four per region — North, Central, Long Beach Island, Cape May, and Atlantic County — then filtered through their respective pile of nominees (with no limit to amount) from their areas and distilling those down to four noms a piece from each district. Those 20 were handed down to the NJSHOF Selection Committee (with explicit instructions to not  talk amongst themselves or anyone else during the process), who voted across districts for the 13 surfers they thought were most deserving based on the bios that were submitted from the Shoreline Directors. Then, votes were tallied by the President and the winning nominees became inductees.

Sound like a hard job and a huge responsibility? It most definitely was, but judging by this year’s gang of 13 inducted to the New Jersey Surfing Hall Of Fame, the mission statement was definitely accomplished on all fronts. Without further ado or details, we’ll let our huge photo gallery speak to the rest of one amazing night in Jersey surf history — we can only wonder what level it will go to two years down the road for the class of 2019.

2017 New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame inductees:

1. Jeff Arensman – Central District

2. Kevin Casey – Central District

3. Gary Finnigan – Northern District

4. Larry Friedel – Cape May District

5. Tony Giordano – Central District

6.  Brian Heritage – Cape May District

7. Charlie Kunes – Northern District

8. Tom McClaren – Atlantic County District

9. Jack Meyer – Northern District

10. Bill Minder – Northern District

11. Mark Neustadter – Cape May District

12. Tom O’Brien – Atlantic County District

13. Sandy Ordille – Cape May District

The class of 2017 (from back, left to right): Tony Giordano, Kevin Casey, Jeff Arensman, Sandy Ordille, Charlie Kunes, Bill Minder, Larry Friedel, Tom McClaren; (kneeling left to right): Event MC and special guest of honor, Peter Townend, Gary Finnigan, Tom O’Brien, and Brian Heritage (missing, Mark Neustadter). Photo: Rich McMullin

The surf industry was definitely in the house for 2017 — thanks to all those who got behind the event and helped take it to the next level. Photo: Mez

Not many buildings could be grander than the Flanders in Ocean City to host the second iteration of the NJSHOF’s induction ceremony. Photo: McMullin

Going up? Most definitely. Way up! Photo: McMullin

(Left to right) 2017 inductee Kevin Casey, leader of the Jersey tribe and Class of 2015 member, Cecil Lear, Casino Pier legend Chris Mesanko, and photographer and class of 2015 inductee Ray Hallgreen. Photo: Bruce Chrisner

Photo booth fun: Class of 2015 inductee Captain Chuck Allison and his party posse. Photo: @grinsnposes

Atlantic City-area ripper and former top East Coast pro-turned-California lawyer transplant Tom “The Bomb” Matthews salutes those about to rock. Photo: @grinsnposes

The family that surf retails together… Tracy (left) and Barbara Heritage (right) of Heritage Surf and Sport were all smiles before brother/son Brian took the stage to accept his induction and join dad Dan as the first father/son duo to be enshrined in the NJSHOF. Photo: @grinsnposes

2017 inductee Tony Giordano (second from left) and his wife Mary Beth (left) join Marie Luthringer (second from right) and longtime Jersey shaper and Casino Pier surf legend Rich Luthringer. Photo: @grinsnposes

NJSHOF Treasurer, board member, and one of the untiring behind the scenes crew members who helped organize this years successful evening, Keith Eaves shares the booth with goddaughter Dara Hennessey and her sister Taylor, daughters of Jim and Tracy Heritage Hennessy. Photo: @grinsnposes

Billabong’s Rob Kelly (or so the name tag says) horses around. Photo: @grinsnposes

Former Bruce Springsteen mentor/manager/sound man/roadie/shaper and Class of 2015 inductee Carl “Tinker” West of Challenger East Surfboards with longtime Monmouth County legend ripper Joe Schluter. Photo: McMullin

(Left to right) 2017 inductee and owner of the iconic 7th Street Surf Shop franchise Larry Friedel with this year’s trophy craftsman Jamie Kelly and Tom Matthews. Photo: McMullin

John Oppito of Monmouth County’s Rozbern Surfboards had a mighty fine-looking quiver on display, mixing pleasure with business — but judging by the smile on his face, business took more of a back seat to letting the good times roll. Photo: Mez

The blind auction was no joke with signed boards by both Rob Machado (pictured) and John John Florence up for bids. Rumor had it somebody got the Firewire for $350. Steal of the century? Photo: Mez

O’Neill’s Gary “The Poobah” Clayton (left) with another honored guest, Quiksilver’s Bob McKnight. Much thanks to Bob for coming out and spending the evening with us at this growing event… because this shit’s legit. Photo: Chrisner

Beef and Bricker, two true NJ heavyweights — it just ain’t a party without these two legends in the house. Photo: McMullin

(Left to right) Eastern Lines Surf Shop’s Don Tarrant, Cecil Lear, and Mike Boroznoff. Photo: McMullin

(Left photo) Tonya and Dick Meseroll delivering the latest edition of ESM. Photo: TR Devaney; (Right photo) Andrew Gesler of Dark Fall Productions. Photo: McMullin

Selling through 500 pre-event tickets to so many stoked Jersey surfers and their assorted friends, relatives, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, groms, and babies meant everyone crammed into two huge rooms to enjoy the second annual NJSHOF induction ceremonies, which included an amazing assortment of food, wines, and beers that lasted the whole night through. Kudos to the event organizers. Photo: McMullin

Outgoing NJSHOF President Gary Germain (speaking from the podium) got a huge round of applause for both a job well done in his two-year tenure and for being selected to now head up the East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame for the retiring Cecil Lear. Big shoes to fill, yes, but if the fledgling New Jersey version is any indication, the man is more than capable. Photo: Mez

Ladies first. Class of 2017 inductee and Ocean City original Sandy Ordille got a rousing round of applause when she took the stage. Photo: Mez

Sandy speaks, we listened. Intently. Photo: Mez

She’s been living in Southern California for a couple of decades, but by the crowd response you’d think she’d never left. Sandy Ordille along with Brigantine’s Linda Davoli blazed a bright trail for women pros like Frieda Zamba and Lisa Andersen to follow. Photo: Chrisner

Central Jersey’s Jeff Arensman, who made his bones as a fierce competitor during the ’70s with numerous local results, had big wins in the 1971 ECSC, following that up at in the ESA Easterns Junior Men’s division later that year. Jeff also stayed on a roll with a 2nd-place in the 1971 US Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach, then took a 2nd in the 1972 ECSC Men’s division and a 1st once again at ECSC in 1973. Photo: Mez

Awards craftsman Jamie Kelly outdid himself once again for the 2017 class with this year’s beautiful works of hand-hewn wooden art. Honestly, to simply call these sculptures “trophies” does not do the man — or his work — justice. Photo: Chrisner

Kevin Casey of Toms River is a blue-collar, lunch box totin’ surfer’s surfer and local’s local whose humility is off the charts along with his competition record — he racked up countless East Coast amateur wins along with two US Men’s Open Championships in ’83 and ’85. Back then, that event was THE premiere competition in the country and stacked a mile high with the best of the best. “Case” also received one of only 30 invites to the Hawaiian Tropics Men’s World Cup 1983 Pipeline event (think ABC’S Wide World of Sports!). He also hit #48 on the 1978 IPS rankings, where he encountered the gentleman who was its first world champion in 1976 — now standing next to him on the podium as the night’s MC, Mr. Peter Townend, who heaped the type of praise and accolades on this Jersey legend you’ll never hear Kevin talk about. Photo: Mez

Gary Finnigan from Monmouth County had the crowd’s full attention with his speech about the importance of family, surfing with his son, and setting good examples for the youth. Photo: Chrisner

Still an active competitive machine with results dating back to 1969, Gary Finnigan, still riding and winning on a shortboard, is more than just a man in a singlet bobbing up and down in the ocean hunting for yet  another trophy for his over-crowded mantle. Whenever you talk to Gary’s peers, you always hear the words “giving back,” “volunteering,” “mentoring,” “coaching,” and “family man.” Combine that with Gerry Lopez as his big surfing influence and Cecil Lear as his role model and mentor and do we really need we say much more? Photo: Mez

Larry Friedel and family. Photo: McMullin

Founder/owner of the Ocean City-based 7th Street Surf Shop franchise, Larry Friedel has been surfing since 1962 and continues to run his shops with both hands on the steering wheel while still riding longboards and shortboards. He has helped coach, mentor, and influence some of New Jerseys very best surfers (like Dean Randazzo and Matt Keenan) and started a “learn to surf” school in the early 1980s — 20 years before “surf schools” became cool and a viable business concept. Except that Larry Friedel did it to grow awareness and, more importantly, acceptance of a sport that was often considered dodgy by the town fathers and powers that be who erected barriers, walls, and ordinances that he’s helped tear down for our sport’s growth and, most importantly, access to the waves. Photo: Mez

(Left to right) Fish slayer Mike Gleason, Dark Fall Productions’ Alex DePhillipo, and North Carolina transplant/ Volcom East Coast team manager Billy Hume = Gen Now in the house! Photo: Mez

Your turn! Longtime best buddies and Class of 2017 inductees Kevin Casey (seated) congratulate Lavallette’s Tony Giordano on his way up to the podium as fellow Casino Pier legend Chris Mesanko (standing) looks on. Photo: Mez

Tony G. — as passionate and proud as ever speaking about Jersey surfing, his selection into our humble Hall Of Fame, Ocean Hut and its extended family, and on how we need to pass on the stoke to the groms. Photo: Mez

Cecil and Mary Lou Lear, the first couple of New Jersey surfing (if not the East Coast) always light up a room and fill it full of aloha simply by just showing up with a smile. Photo: Mez

To say Brian Heritage was moved for all the right reasons he so eloquently and emotionally stated in his acceptance speech and thank you’s to family and friends would be an understatement. While mom Barb beamed from a table nearby, it was palpable that you could feel the spirit of a very proud Dan Heritage (posthumously inducted in the inaugural class of 2015) was present and smiling ear-to-ear as his shaper/son joined him in the New Jersey Surfing Hall Of Fame. Photo: Mez

The Ocean City native’s acceptance speech was definitely one of the highlights of the night in a night full of verbal highlights at the podium. Longtime friend and industry/sport icon Peter Townend could feel it too while outgoing NJSHOF president Gary Germain looks on pretty damn stoked at what the hard work of his board of trustees had wrought. Photo: McMullin

Like father, like mother, like son. Heritage Surf & Sport’s “all in,” stoked to be a surfer lineage runs deeper than just Brian and the other Heritage siblings assuring it will be a part of the fabric of New Jersey and East Coast surfing for generations to come. It is a family business, but that family extends far beyond its bloodlines. Photo: Chrisner

Germinating and blossoming out of Les Reitman’s (NJSHOF class of 2015) Manatee Surf Shop and its Hobie team, Charlie Kunes went full bloom after hooking up with Bill Minder’s Monmouth Beach shop and was known and feared in competition in all corners before taking up shaping and starting his own board manufacturing concern. There he worked with the likes of Harold Iggy, Reno Abellira, Nat Young, and Scott Busbey while stoking the flames of younger rippers like the NJSHOF-turned-ECSHOF president Gary Germain and fellow NJSHOFers Vince Troniec as coach and mentor to dozens of other great Monmouth County surfers who went on to success in the surf industry and life. How’s that for full circle? Photo: Mez

You could literally write a book on the contributions Tom McClaren has brought to East Coast competition surfing as the quintessential man behind the scenes of both the ESA-South Jersey District and his nearly 50-year relationship with the august entity itself. Unfortunately, we simply do not have space here. The 1994 Colin J. Couture award recipient helped revive his district with future NJSHOFer Ruth Grottola and co-wrote the ESA competition handbook with her that is still in use today. As competition director, he also redesigned the 6-man heat / 50% advancement format that is still being implemented and touted as his most important contribution. We could go on and on and on but will just leave it at one big huge THANKS for what is mostly a thankless job. Photo: Mez

Another one of the evening’s highlights and its loudest cheers came when artist Jack Meyer was posthumously inducted by Cindy Meyer-Beedle, pictured here with their brother Rich. Jackie may be gone, but by the sound of 600+ people shouting, hooting, whistling, and clapping its collective approval, it was obvious he is most definitely not forgotten. Photo: Mez

He somehow held it together reading a heartfelt note in absentia from one of Jack’s best mates, Joe Lopez of industry apparel and accessories giant Senor Lopez (to whom Jack had contributed many designs) but Bruce Chrisner, steadied by Cindy Meyer-Beedle, gave a warm, emotional rendering of Joe’s homage to the man he also calls one of his closest compatriots. The hankies and Kleenex definitely came out for this one. Photo: Mez

The Jack Meyer clan came out en force to make sure that everyone remembered the good times and that trademark, puckish Meyer grin. Photo: Chrisner

The Tuckerton Seaport Jersey Surf Museum’s pop up museum always draws a big crowd of on-lookers. Photo: Mike Vuocolo

Part of that collection — and no doubt the the crown jewel of the display — featured, according to Bruce Chrisner, a Jack Meyer mixed media paint pen/airbrushed 9’0″ Waimea gun shaped by Tim Patterson that was commissioned by Billabong to hang at the entryway of their Times Square store in New York City. Bruce, who took the last-ever photo of Jack posing with the magnificent on-foam rendering, also added that the project took Jack four full days to complete over a long Fourth of July weekend in 2006 and is the very last piece surfboard art he created before his passing a few months later. The board, signed by Jack, is now on display at Farias Ship Bottom store on LBI in New Jersey. Left photo: Chrisner; right photo: McMullin

Bill Minder is the man who helped launch a couple of hundred thousand rides on our waves by opening up Monmouth Beach Surf Shop in the ’60s and bringing Dewey Weber’s boards to our region. He also founded one of the powerhouse teams when being on a surf team really meant something (team jackets, trunks and, of course, girls!) on the East Coast. That team also included several current NJSHOF members including Vince Troniec as well as the late Jim Jeffries and Steve Adeskavitz along with Joe Wooley, Hank Gilbertson, Joe Pignataro, and Andy Frattin. Now Mr. Minder joins them as well with honors. Photo: Mez

The Neustadter clan. Photo: Mez

Mark Neustadter on the podium — here are a few well-known facts about Neuy: he’s a classic guy, he can and did give a classic speech, and he’s one legendary ripper/sales rep to this day. Photo: Mez

When asked for the NJSHOF website what surfing in New Jersey means to him, Tom O’Brien responded, “Enjoying the many world-class waves that NJ has that people outside of NJ don’t know exist. That and the look on other competitors’ faces from Hawaii and California when they lose to someone from NJ.” Yes, he’s another Garden State wave wizard who relishes donning a singlet and the heat of doing battle with an amateur contest resume a mile long that includes a slew of 1st-places across several disciplines in both the ESA (15 Northeast Regionals titles and a handful of Ironman titles!) and NSSA. He is also one of very few surfers to be both an ESA All-Star and NSSA National Team member at the same time for two years running — in other words, you do not want to draw this dude in your heat. Ever. And he’s still going strong as evidenced in his recent 1st-place finish at the 2017 ESA Southeast Regionals in his second home state of Florida. And while he may be a give no quarter, heartbreaking, 1st-place taking uber competitor between the ropes at surf competitions over the past couple of decades, he is ultimately a giver, as exemplified by helping to coach up and mentor some of South Jersey’s best like Frank Walsh, Zack Humphreys, and young female phenom Cassidy McClain, along with most tellingly donating his time and knowledge teaching surf lessons to autistic children every summer. A true warrior with a heart of gold and a NJSHOFer all the way. Photo: Mez

Hey Sam, how about that Cold War win and VIP award last year?! Photo: McMullin

Sam Hammer and Mike Gleason, brothers in arms and without a doubt future NJSHOFers whether they like the idea or not. Photo: McMullin

Ed Andress of Heritage Surf & Sport, who started out building boards with Dan Heritage, with New Jersey State Senator Jeff Van Drew in the house to give a speech about how great surfing and surfers are, illustrating just how next level this second induction was. Photo: Mez

Class of 2015’s Linda Davoli and Cecil Lear. Photo: McMullin

Who doesn’t? More photo booth fun courtesy of @grinsnposes!

Artiste extraordinaire Todd DiCiurcio and wife Megan, who is Tommy Hilfiger’s president of marketing. Photo: @grinsnposes

He’s lying… Brian Heritage with Stephanie Morrissey on left and Joanne Black. Photo: @ginsnposes

Except for maybe some of the inductees, who has more fun at a party or on the beach than the groms? Somewhere under all those props are (left to right) Nick Gardella, Cole Devaney, and the “Moose,” Seamus Carey. Photo: @grinsnposes

Seth Stafford (perhaps referencing the infamous “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” scene from The Godfather) and friends take their turn in the nearly not as infamous or gory photo booth at the NJSHOF. Photo: @grinsnposes

Photog Rich McMullin and ladies longboard phenom Arles DuPont, glad for autofocus. Photo: @grinsnposes

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