Janice Aragon, Sam Hawk and Kai Lenny named 2019 inductees into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame

Kai Lenny at the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi in Maui, Hi, USA in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Morris/WSL)

Kai Lenny at the Jaws Challenge at Pe’ahi in Maui, Hi, USA in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Morris/WSL)

By LAYLAN CONNELLY | lconnelly@scng.com | Orange County Register

PUBLISHED: June 4, 2019 at 4:25 pm | UPDATED: June 5, 2019 at 12:01 pm

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Janice Aragon, executive director of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, stands with some of the names of past national champions of NSSA at the recent competition held in Huntington Beach. ( Photo by Mark Rightmire, The Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Janice Aragon, executive director of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, stands with some of the names of past national champions of NSSA at the recent competition held in Huntington Beach. ( Photo by Mark Rightmire, The Orange County Register/SCNG)

That pro surfer competing among the best in the world?

If the surfer was raised in the waves in North America or Hawaii, chances are he or she was groomed by Janice Aragon and the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) while coming up in the amateur ranks — and Aragon foresaw stardom long before it happened.

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Aragon, along with Huntington Beach icon Sam Hawk and Hawaiian phenom Kai Lenny, are this year’s Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductees, organizers announced Monday, June 3. They will be honored in a celebration Aug. 2 in front of Huntington Surf and Sport.

The three will be added to the long list of icons who have put their hands and feet in cement at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, near where a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern-day surfing, looks out toward the Pacific Ocean.

Hawk, a power surfer born in South Gate in 1950, first took waves in Huntington Beach. He is one of the renowned Hawk surfing clan that includes his brother Tom and their late brother Chris, all of whom helped shape the Huntington Beach surf culture in the 1960s, according to the announcement.

“Sam Hawk is a huge legend of our surfing world,” said Surfers’ Hall of Fame founder Aaron Pai, in the news release. “Back in the day, Sam was one of the best surfers here and in the big surf of Hawaii, and he has been a master shaper since the ’70s. We are super stoked to be able to thank Sam for all his contributions and achievements to our sport of surfing.”

He moved to the North Shore of Oahu in 1967 and by 1971 had established himself as one of the most advanced regular-foot surfers at Banzai Pipeline, as well as Sunset Beach and Rocky Point. He still lives on the North Shore.

Hawk finished fourth at the 1972 Pipeline Masters contest and placed third in the 1974 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championship. He was an apprentice for surfboard shaper Dick Brewer in the early 1970s, then went on to become a board maker under Brewer’s label before branching out on his own.

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He will join his brother Chris as a Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductee. Chris Hawk, who lived in San Clemente, was inducted in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away shortly after.

Aragon is a former competitive surfer who has made a huge imprint on the careers of young surfers across the country.

She was born in 1955 in Fresno, raised in Downey and first picked up surfing at age 16. Aragon won her first surfing contest in 1983 at age 29, chasing competitive dreams while raising two children.

Aragon won the 1984 ISA World Championships in Huntington Beach, helping lead the U.S. to a team victory. She won the NSSA Nationals, one of amateur surfing’s most prestigious events, in 1985. She was hired as an NSSA competition judge in 1986, and the following year broke new ground in surfing becoming the first woman to judge a professional world tour event, working the Op Pro Surfing Championship in Huntington Beach.

Aragon was hired as the NSSA’s executive director in 1989, a role she still holds three decades later.

Thousands of young surfers have gone through the NSSA ranks. Most never became professional surfers, but some used their early teachings to propel them to be the best in the sport. They include champions such as Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and Carissa Moore, as well as current local Orange County World Tour surfers Courtney Conlogue, Kolohe Andino and Kanoa Igarashi.

Despite his young age, Lenny already has excelled in several sports that involve the sea.

The Hawaiian surfer’s parents dipped him in the Maui shorebreak within a week of being born in 1992. He was charging big waves by age five, windsurfing at six, stand-up paddling at seven and kitesurfing at nine. He had his first sponsor before age 10, according to organizers of the Hall of Fame.

Lenny is a familiar face around Orange County, a regular competitor at the now defunct Battle of the Paddle and winning the SUP world title several years. In 2014, he finished fourth in the grueling 32-mile Molokai 2 Oahu (M2O) Paddleboard World Championships. The following year he came in second and then in 2016, he not only won the title but set a new record.

It’s his prowess in massive waves that has put a brighter spotlight on Lenny, who has been charging Maui’s Jaws, one of the world’s gnarliest waves, since age 16.

This year, he won the WSL Big Wave Awards for Overall Performance and XXL Biggest Wave Award at a ceremony in Redondo Beach for a wave he took at Jaws in November.

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