East Beats West- Historic Trophy is Re-Discovered

                                                                                                                                                                       

1966 was a momentous year in East Coast surfing history. While the sport had been slowly gaining in popularity for a while, the introduction of “The Endless Summer” movie that year turned a novelty sport into a cultural phenomenon.

Although there were several established surfboard brands on the east coast they did not have the capacity to produce enough surfboards to meet the surging demand. The big California manufacturers, – notably Weber, Hobie and Surfboards Hawaii- sensing a marketing opportunity began shipping their product east. At the same time, they also began sending their top surfers to compete on the east coast contest circuit to help increase their sales.

A year earlier surfing legend Dick Catri had formed a team of east coast surfers as the Surfboards Hawaii surf team. His belief was that east coast surfers could hold their own against any competition and they did just that by dominating every contest they entered.

The 1966 East Coast Surfing Championship was billed as a West Coast/East Coast showdown. Catri had coached his team well and they were prepared. The Surfboards Hawaii team had what was likely the most talented surfers to ever compete with a roster of talent that included Bruce Valluzi,  Sam Gornto, Mimi Monroe, Rene Eisler and Kathy LaCroix. But the undeniable star of the team was the hyper- competitive and talented Gary Propper.

Propper had been narrowly beaten the previous week by Dewey Weber and he was out for revenge. The stage was set the following week for the East Coast Surfing Championships at Virginia Beach. As many as 10,000 spectators jammed the beach-the largest crowd yet for an east coast event. Both Surfer and Surfing magazine covered the contest.  Propper recalls “All the big names were there- Dewey, Jackie Baxter, Harold Iggy, JoJo Perrin, Tom Leonardo. I smoked ‘em all!”

Catri’s team continued their winning streak by sweeping nearly every division. Mimi Monroe won the women’s division and and the team took home a total of 24 trophies. Surfer Magazine declared “for the first time- EAST BEATS WEST”. The team had won so many trophies by then that they nearly filled their trailer.

 

History has a habit of showing up when you least expect it. I recently received a call from a gentleman named Charles Martin. He was passing through Cocoa Beach and asked if I was interested in an item he wanted to donate to the museum. Of course I was, and I asked him what he had. I nearly choked when he said “Gary Propper’s 1st place trophy from the 1966 East Coast Championships!” (exclamation point mine!). Mr. Martin was a friend and driver for Gary Propper back then. One day Gary was cleaning out his home. Charlie was there helping when Gary handed him the trophy and asked him if he wanted it. He took the trophy which ended up stored in his attic for nearly fifty years.

The trophy is tarnished now- the plating gone and the paint cracked in places. But the significance of the trophy has lost none of its luster. It takes its place as one of the most important items in our collection.

The museum will have the trophy on display until the end of the current exhibit “Gary Propper- Surfing/ Art/ Entertainment”.

Story by John Hughes

 

 

 

Mahalo to Matt Warshaw for providing PDFs of the magazines below:

Surfer Magazine Vol. 7 no. 6 1966

1966ECSC_Surfer

Surfing Vol. 3 no. 1 1966

1966ECSC_Surfing

 

 

 

 

 

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