Pensacola Beach Surfing History Timeline

Written by Tom Grow

Mahalo to Brenda Stokes for contacting Tom Grow and making this timeline available.

Pensacola Beach, 1941.

Early shot of a surfer at Pensacola Beach in 1941 Many Navy servicemen from the West Coast (California) brought their boards to Florida. Photographer unknown, photo provided by Tom Hutson.

1941: Navy servicemen from California bring their surfboards to Florida with them during war time.
Modern Surfing Begins
1957: A Navy guy comes to the beach with his surfboard and surfs while the Pensacola Beach lifeguards watch. Danny Stone, one of the lifeguards, talks with him and is given a “lesson” surfing. The Navy surfer was Jim Meyring.
1958: Dale Butt and Roddy Mead (also lifeguards) decide to make a board for themselves. They get blocks of Styrofoam, glue them together, shape a crude board, and attempt to glass it with polyester resin. Realizing this won’t work, they coat the board with rubber-based paint and then glass the board with cloth and resin (Glass job doesn’t stick to foam. A picture of the board is featured with Tom Grow). They begin surfing at the beach.
1959: Five of the lifeguards decide to order new Hobie boards. Dale Butt teaches Tom Grow how to surf. Scott Bush learns to surf in California.
Tom Grow and the first Gulf Coast shaped surfboard

Dale Butt gives Tom Grow (pictured) the first board shaped on the Gulf Coast, 1960.

1960: Scott Bush moves to Pensacola. Dale Butt gives Tom Grow the first board made on the Gulf Coast.
1961: Tom, Scott, and the lifeguards continue to surf. A few others join the group.
1962: Tom Grow orders new Hobie. Tom Grow and Scott Bush go to California to spend a month in San Diego with Dale Butt who has moved to Ocean Beach to surf. They continue to surf in Pensacola.
1963: Tom Grow returns to California and hangs out at Small and Nieves (S&N Boards) surf shop. While Tom is in California, Benny Jackson contacts Scott and tells him Jack Waters (owner of Hutson Hardware) wants to make surfboards to sell. Scott and Tom confer on the phone and decide to tell Jack they know how to make boards (not quite true) and that they will set up the shop. Tom returns from California and that Fall, they began to make boards.
At the Hutson factory, Scott Bush was the shaper, Tom Grow was the glasser, and Benny Jackson worked on fins and sanded.
1964: Tom and Scott continue at Hutson making boards. The Islander brand was created to use on the pop-out boards they began to make. The Islander brand was later used on custom boards made by Brian Waters- the son of Jack Waters- who owned Hutson’s. The Hutson brand was used for the custom boards.
World Surfing Contest News Clipping, 1965

World Surfing Contest 1965

1965: Scott and Tom continue to work at Hutson’s. Tom Grow competes in the World Contest in Peru.
1965: Scott continues at Hutson’s and goes to shape at the Dayton Beach Surf Shop in the fall. Tom Grow and John Russell go to San Diego to surf. John returns to Pensacola, Tom stays in San Diego.
1966: Scott continues to shape at Daytona Beach, Tom Grow returns from California to become the glasser at Dayton Beach.
1967: Scott and Tom both move to San Diego where they work regular jobs and also shape and glass for Challenger Surfboards. In late 1967, both return to Pensacola.
1968: Scott open the first surf shop in Pensacola selling Challenger Surfboards. Tom and Scott start Design Line Surfboards. Scott starts a surf team with Yancy Spencer, John Spencer, and Beaser Turner.
The Challenger Surf Shop Team poses with their Design Line surfboards. Pictured from right to left are: Yancy Spencer, John Spencer, and Beaser Turner

The Challenger Surf Shop Team poses with their Design Line surfboards. Pictured from right to left are:
Yancy Spencer, John Spencer, and Beaser Turner

The short board revolution takes place at this time. Scott opens a larger shop in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Scott competes and wins at Florida State Championships in Daytona Beach.
1969: Yancy Spencer opened a shop in the location of Scott’s first shop. Scott moves to a new location in Pensacola and opened the “Pants Tree” selling surfboards and clothing. Tom Grow goes to the University of West Florida and begins working at the Environmental Protection Lab at Pensacola Beach.
1970- 1984: Tom Grow attends the University of Florida in Gainesville to get his PhD and begins teaching at UF. Scott begins working at NADEP  (Naval Aviation Depot)  in Pensacola.
1984: Tom Grow returns to Pensacola and he and Scott take a surf trip to Hawaii. Upon returning from Hawaii, Tom and Scott begin building surfboards again as well as windsurfers.
1988: Tom begins teaching at Pensacola Junior College while still surfing.
1994:  Scott moves to Jacksonville to work and begins shaping for Straight Up Surfboards (Greg Stritch).
2002 – 2013: Scott returns to Pensacola and does occasional shaping for Steve and Tom Stack.
2016 and beyond: Tom and Scott still surfing….


  • This brings back a lot of memories…hanging out at Hutson’s (way too far from the beach) at a time when surfing seemed like the most important thing in the world. Maybe it was. I’ve often wondered what ever happened to Scott and Billy Bush, Benny Jackson, Roy ???, Beaser, etc. Don’t forget Mike “Hatter” Enmier, and Nelson Goo who moved to Pensacola from Coronado, CA and Hawaii respectively in the mid sixties – both talented surfers who had lots of influence on the local crown at the time. I moved from Pensacola in 1979 to Gainesville and never moved back. I now live in Ponte Vedra Beach, and I still play in the surf, but mostly on a paddle boards and kayaks.

    John "Johnnie" Catches15 October, 2016
  • Good article! I was lucky to work with Scott and Bill Bush in the fiberglass shop at NADEP before bracc closure. David Broxson and I, from Navarre, went to Hutsons to check it out. Good vibe! Good ‘ole days surfing with Charlie and Penut Schuler, Brenda Vandevender Stokes (first female lifeguard and one of the first if not THE first Pensacola/ Navarre female surfers), Pasco Gibson, David Broxson, and Mark Pippen to name a few. I just bought a Tom Stack longboard from Brian McKinney at Mavericks yesterday…I hope Scott Bush had a hand in it. I am almost 61, started surfing Navarre pier Thanksgiving day 1976 with Tom Brenner.

    Brian Grayson 2020

    J. Brian Grayson25 March, 2020
    • Thanks for your comments. We always appreciate hearing more about surfing history from our readers.

      John Hughes25 March, 2020

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