Passings: Hunter Joslin & Friends Remember Chummer McCranels, 1938-2019

January 15, 2020 • East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame, Eastern Surfing Association, Passings

John “Chummer” McCranels, one of the East Coasts most endearing legends has passed away in West Palm Beach, FL. He left behind a legacy that will never be duplicated. He was the true embodiment of the spirit of ALOHA.

Not that he ever spoke of such a thing he simply lived it every day of his life. His memorial service was attended by at least 500 people who were there to pay homage to Chummer’s exceptional positivity, never ending smile, and his words of wisdom that touched everyone he came in contact with, either for a fleeting moment or a lifetime.

Chum ( seated on floor in middle ) with one of his many ESA trophies. This image was captured at a Palm Beach County ESA awards event in Delray Beach c.1981. Also pictured are Trip Freeman ( behind Chummer  in black T) and, standing in the back at right with white dress shirt, Shaun Tomson. According to ESA co-founder, and fellow East Coast Surfing Hall oF Fame member, Cecil Lear, “Chummer, was the ultimate Renaissance Man! A True Surfer. Ever happy, optimistic, fun to be with, and always ready to try something new and exciting risk be damned ! The most active person I ever knew. Most importantly to me, a loyal friend!!!”

Chummer had a way about him that was infectious! He made friends instantly which captured peoples attention and respect with his easy going manner, great sense of humor and a real interest in everyone he met. To say he was an individual is grossly understated. He was like no one I have ever met! He was always happy, had nothing but positive things to say and was a never ending source of wisdom which he shared in stories that captivated all that were fortunate enough to know him.

At the Surfing Florida Museum where he and wife, Joann volunteered every Saturday for the past three years. According to fellow Florida Surf Museum trustee, Tom Warnke ( pictured ), “Chum would post up at the door to invite everybody in, then walk them to the gift shop where Joann would show them around. Almost everyone would buy something. We never had a better sales team than those two dedicated individuals!”. Photo: Courtesy Warnke

I first became acquainted with Chummer surfing one day at what is now the Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island, Florida. The waves were pumping with long lefts, offshore winds and overhead consistent sets. I went to paddle for a wave and saw that this other guy was in the slot paddling as well. I started to pull back and and let him go when I heard “ Go, Go there’s plenty of room…Go!!! I was quite surprised as that was/is far from what is normally said in that situation. So I proceeded to go and share the wave with this guy. As we finished the wave and started the long paddle back out to the lineup Chummer exclaimed how much fun that was and how it was great conditions to share waves. That was in 1974 and I remember it like it was yesterday.

David Reese slipstreams Chummer McCranels at Wilderness, PR circa late 60’s. According to long time friend Tom Warnke, “Chum would often call people in to ride in front of him. I remember Chum and I did three criss-crosses on one overhead wave at Domes”.
Photo: courtesy Tom Warnke

Over the next 45 years I came to know Chummer and his family as the most incredible family ever from the East Coast surfing community. His son Scott earned his place on the Sims East Coast Skateboard Team which I managed and with that circumstance I became an uncle and close family friend. I am truly blessed to have had the experience of knowing this amazing man and he will remain forever in the hearts and memories of everyone that knew him. – Hunter Joslin –

Ed. note: A paddle out is expected to be at Lake Worth Pier Feb. 8th at 10 a.m. to be immediately followed by a reception and celebration with food, drinks, live music in remembrance of Chummer’s life at the Surfing Florida Museum, 1400 Elizabeth Avenue, WPB, 33401. Please check the Surfing Florida Museum website for updates.

Scott and Chummer McCranels then…

… and more recently. Chummer and son, former top East Coast pro, Scott McCranels are the only father-son duo currently enshrined in the East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame and were surf buddies til the end. Photo: Mark Hill @mhillphotos

Hunter Joslin with Scott and Chummer McCranels pose by the Washington Memorial while attending the Smithsonian / SHACC event for the 50th anniversary of the Endless Summer film in Washington, D.C. Photo: Courtesy Warnke

McCranels and Dick Catri about to enter the water for what must have been one hell of a hard fought heat. Photo: Tom Dugan

Chummer walking with yellow board and is a frame grab from Gary Gross 1960’s Puerto Rico film. He and Gary Gross helped pioneer surfing in PR.  This one shows them on the path between Domes and Indicators.

On the winners podium at the 2010 ESA Southeast Regionals. Photo: Mark Hill @mhillphotos

John “Chummer” Mc Cranels was aloha personified and we’ll let long time family friend and fellow ECSHOF member, Tom Dugan sum it up with this remembrance to a treasured member of our tribe : “In the early 80’s I met one of the best surfers from south Florida, Scott McCranels. I did a few trips with Scott like Hawaii , Hatteras , Abaco , New Jersey the usual spots for a competitive surfer to go at the time. Some where in there I met his Dad Chummer. The stoke these two had for surfing was like no other. I noticed that Scott would just let his Dad run the show as he was more stoked than the kids half his age and was always talking about surfing or going surfing. As the best Orthodontist in Fla. I had Chummer take care of my Daughters braces and would see him often over a three year period. I can say with certainty that every time I would see him he would have that big smile on his face and a story about his last surf. He was stoked all the way to the end and we can all agree that knowing him made our lives a better place”. Aloha, Chummer and rest in peace, Legend. Photo: Tom Dugan