Bob Freeman's
Surf Memories

Team Life...   

... I didn't consider myself a very good surfer in 1966
I never imagined I could be on a major surf team. I never really thought about it. And I didn't have any aspirations to be on a surf team. Surf Teams back in the '60s were a big deal.
It seemed like only the best riders were on a Team. And, there were only a few major Teams.

Surf Teams back then were kinda like family.
Teams traveled to contests together and stayed together. Teams would freesurf together ... Often paddling out at the same time. Most Teams provided their riders with sets of matching Team Gear ... baggies, shirts, jackets. Surf talk often compared one Team to another.
And ... Since there was no interference rule back then, Team Mates would sometimes block other competitors off waves for each other.

... somehow I landed on some of the best Teams of the era
I was not one of the stars, but I traveled and competed with the stars. I won only a couple events back then...
But, I made many friends for life.


Story 1966 - Cocoa Beach, Florida
I had only been surfing about two years when I moved down from the Outer Banks to Cocoa Beach.
But, I was finally surfing well enough to be accepted by the Cocoa Beach locals, especially by the notorious pier crew. I was even given a wave to surf by myself every now and then.

I entered the Jaycees Labor Day Surf Contest the next year and surprised myself by earning a 3rd place finish in the Men's division.
About a month later my prized 9'6" Hansen Competitor washed into Canaveral Pier and broke into several pieces. This is the board I was riding when Larry Pope captured this nice pic of me all alone at 2nd Light earlier that summer.

Now boardless I visited RonJons new shop on A1A in hopes of finding a decent used longboard to replace my loss.
Bob Freeman 1967 - 2ndLight
1967 2nd Light photo by Larry Pope
9'6" Hansen Competitor

The Cocoa Beach RonJons at that time occupied a small rental space in the middle of a block long strip. It wasn't long before RonJons expanded into the vacated shops on either side, then eventually purchased the whole property and built what we see there today.

Ted Lund and Bill Volmar were working in the shop that afternoon and saw me come in.

I told them I was looking for a used Hansen.
Hansen was my favorite board brand at that time.
My surf heroes rode for Hansen ... Mike Doyle, Rusty Miller, Cheer Critchlow, Margo Godfrey and others.

I really liked their boards.
Bob Freeman 1966 - Canaveral Pier, FL
1966 Canaveral Pier photo by Roger Scruggs
9'6" Hansen Competitor

Hansen 9'6
1966 by Roger Scruggs
my 9'6" Hansen Competitor

Cocoa Beach had two very good local board makers at that time. James & O'Hare and Oceanside both had hot boards, loyal followers and some of the best Team Riders.
But, Catri's Surfboards Hawaii Team had the major stars of the day.
In '65 I watched the Surfboards Hawaii Team van pull up at Wrightsville Beach for a weekend contest there.
Then Propper, Valluzi, Tabeling, Shaw and Catri climbed out ... looking focused and confident.
And I thought, "Wow, those guys are here to kick butt!". And they did.

Back in RonJons, I was introduced to owner, Ron Dimenna. He was tall and distinquished with a very pleasant California aire about him. Ron told me Hansen needed a team rider from Cocoa Beach. He asked if I wanted to be on the Hansen Competition Team and surf out of his RonJon shop as a sponsored RonJon Team Rider.

I left the shop with a new state-of-the art 8'6" Hansen mini-longboard along with a half dozen Hansen Competition Team T-Shirts, and summer and winter Hansen Team Jackets.

I was stoked!
8'6" Hansen V-bottom pin tail

Bob Freeman 1968 - Canaveral Pier, FL
Christmas 1968
7'6" Hansen pintail
pic by Larry Pope in Surfing Magazine
That 1st Team Board was an 8'6" Mike Doyle V-bottom pin tail. It was one of the first shorter boards in Brevard. It felt so radical compared to my trusty 9'6" Competitor.
This was during the start of the shortboard revolution.
We didn't really know how to ride the first shorter boards back then. Old surf flicks of that era often show surfer's tendency to shuffle up for forward trim and still try to nose ride a bit.

The V-bottoms provided a glimpse of what could be possible. Meanwhile the Aussies were already showing us what is possible.

Twin-fins suddenly catapulted the capable into a whole new surfing experience kinda like pushing a sports car's performance on a challenging track.

Now, part of the Hansen family ... I got to meet and surf with those early surf heroes of mine. The locals knew I had made the Team, so I now had expectations to fill.
I had several more Hansens after that. My favorite was a 7'6" pintail. This is the one I'm riding in the Pope picture shown left.
I let most everyone try my boards ... sometimes meeting them later in RonJons. Soon RonJons was selling out of Hansens the day they arrived.

I managed to have some good finishes that year while riding for Hansen out of the RonJon shop.

Dick Catri took notice and we started surfing more together there at the pier and down at Indialantic Boardwalk near his Shagg's Surf Shop.

Catri also had a Shagg's Surf Shop up on Canaveral Pier at that time. And, he had just made a deal with Hobie Alter to move his Surfboard's Hawaii Team over to Hobie ... but not everyone went along.
Tabeling moved on to Weber and I believe Valuzzi joined Claude Codgen with CON Surfboards.

So, Catri called me into his shop and asked me to join his Hobie Team as there were two slots open. (I believe David Boyd filled the other slot.) Catri made me a sweet offer I could not refuse. I accepted and became part of his team. Catri was a very good surfer, but he was an even better surf coach. We had regular team meetings and often planned strategies before a surf contest. I recall one weekend trip to McKlevin's Hobie shop in Folly Beach for a promo and surfing exhibition. Catri was on the announcer's microphone and introduced each of us one by one as we paddled out into an empty lineup. It was very cool to hear your name announced to the crowd It was kinda like announcing the starting lineup at a ball game. I traveled with Catri, Propper and the others to weekend events up the Eastern Seaboard when I could. Propper and I became great friends. We surfed a lot together and even double dated.

I won only a few contests back then but surfed my way into a handful of finals.

My first Team board with Hobie was a 7'2" Silver Bullet. It was one of my all time favorite boards. I also rode Corky Carroll's Deadly Flying Glove. When the twin fins began to evolve, Catri put me on one of Propper's Positive Force IVs. Those were really great times hanging with the Hobie guys.

Eventually, Catri seized an opportunity to move the Team once again ... this time on to SurfJet, a new player offering honeycomb board construction. That brand never caught on. The Team disbanded. Catri began focusing on his own brand Catri Surfboards ... and we all went our seperate ways.

I lived alone and supported myself those days. I had a full-time job at the Space Center working as an Intern Test Engineer for the first moon missions. I attended night school and surfed when I could.
Unfortunately, my full-time job at the Space Center prevented me from traveling to most contests up north. And, I missed out on a 7-day Caribbean surf adventure aboard the Yankee Clipper with Catri and Butch Van Artsdalen. which was featured in one of the magazines. My good friend, Joe Twombly took my place.

I really had great times being sponsored by Hobie. I got to travel with the team when I could get off from work at Kennedy Space Center. And, I got to meet the West Coast Hobie riders of the day. I enjoyed hanging with Corky Caroll the most.

Recently I reunited with Hobie following the passing of Hobie Alter and the later passing of my good friend, Gary Propper. Discussions one afternoon led to their Silver Bullet model which was my first team board with them back in 1968. I was very stoked when they offered to make a Silver Bullet replica for me. I worked with their top shaper, Gary Larson on some basic deminsions for a 7'6 single fin. They even found a batch of the original HOBIE laminates used on those boards back in the 60s. They did a great glassing job with resin pinlines and gloss coat. They shipped it to me and I've ridden it on special days, usually when the waves are overhead providing more face to carve on.
Thank you Hobie for remembering me!

Hansen and Hobie Team Gear

2014 Hobie Team reunion party
me and Mickey Munoz

My 1968 7'2 Hobie Silver Bullet
one of my very favorite boards
Mickey Munoz - shaper

My 2019 7'6 Hobie Silver Bullet
my first Hobie Team board replica
Gary Larson - shaper

Space Center layoffs in 1970 ended my career dreams of becoming a rocket scientist.
Ron hired me to run the RonJon shop up on Canaveral Pier (now Cocoa Beach Pier) in the same location Shaggs had vacated.
About a year later I opened the Sunshine Surf Shop for Sam Gornto and Claude Codgen on Manatee Lane in Cocoa Beach. We were building Claude's new Sunshine boards. So I rode those for a while, but wouldn't say we really had a team.
I soon started a family and moved on into manufacturing where I spent most of my working career in operations. I still surfed when I could.

The Hansen and Hobie glory days were long past. Good friend Jeff Haney was making most of my boards under his Ocean Image label.

Also, by then, Scott Busbey and Pete Dooley had firmly established Natural Art surfboards as a major contributor to East Coast surfing. Scott's Natural Art Shop opened in Buxton in the late '70s. Pete and Deb's Natural Art shop in Cocoa Beach was true core. They were 16th Street regulars in Cocoa Beach, and had a special relationship with the Outer Banks Natural Art crew. The Natural Art Surf Team was legendary through the '80s and early '90s.

In the late '80s my son, Bobby at age 15 began riding for Kechele and was surfing the local ESA contests with Slater, Morcom, Melhado and the other rippers of the day.
I started taking him to the ESA contests and eventually I was talked into entering those and the other local contests.

6'8" Ocean Avenue epoxy by Greg Loehr

I won most of the local shortboard events and made most of the longboard finals during that era.

Bruce Walker, Greg Loehr and I were talking epoxy one day, and that led to my being on Bruce's Ocean Avenue Team.
Ocean Avenue had a strong team of core surfers led by USA Champ, Brian Hewitson along with David Speir, Steve Moldenhauer and others. Greg Loehr shaped both my Ocean Avenue shortboard and my longboard. This was my first experience with epoxy boards. The 6'8" was perfect for me at my age. It's lighter weight and responsiveness made it react like a smaller board and helped me compete against the funshape riders.

It was fun to surf against some of those I competed against many years before. I was a consistent finalist while surfing for Ocean Avenue.
I won ESA's SE Regional Grandmasters 2 years in a row and managed a fifth place in the USA Championships at Ala Moana. My busy work schedule prevented me for making the annual trip to surf in the ESA Easterns at Hatteras. I only surfed a few of those, never won, but was a consistent finalist.

I was on the original RonJon Surf Team back in the late '60s.
We re-connected in 2014 when RonJons was celebrating their 50th anniversary and mutually agreed my returning to the Team as a sponsored rider would be very cool.

2014 ... Kyle Garson, me, Logan Hayes

It has been especially fun to re-unite with RonJons after almost 50 years. I really enjoy surfing with the younger (much younger) Team Mates.
RonJons really does a lot for their Team Riders. They contribute thousands of dollars each year to support various Surfing causes and have helped many young surfers advance their surfing careers.

2016 Easter Contest winners...
William Hedlestson, Caroline Marks and me

RonJons has a solid surf team including Caroline Marks, Evan Geiselman, Tommy Coleman, Corey Howell, Logan Hayes, Randy Townsend, Rachel Presti, Blake Speir, Zoe Benedetto, the Peters brothers, and Lauren McLean.
Current RonJon Team Listing...
RonJon Surf Team

... Looking back
I was stoked to be on some of the best Teams of the era.

I was never one of the stars and I am definitely not a Legend. But, I had a great time being accepted by those stars and surf legends.
Now approaching age 74 ... I reflect fondly on these memories, the great times I had and I am thankful to still be surfing.

2nd Light | Canaveral Jetties | Canaveral Pier | WKKO | Costa 1986 | eMail Bob