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bios-Joey Hawkins
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Joey Hawkins became the poster boy for the often polarizing “progressive” movement in longboard surfing. As the 1980’s moved forward, young longboarders began embellishing the simple, clean lines of the “classic” approach with quick snaps, fin slips, and even aerials; and Hawkins was the first American to parley longboards (and the progressive approach) into real success on the world stage. Josh Constable writes, “The introduction of lightweight materials and advanced technology in the early 90′s allowed longboard pro’s Joey Hawkins and Jeff Kramer to “bust some air” and put progressive longboarding on the map. But that map would trace a journey marked with elation and sadness, reaching its height with a win at the 1992 World Longboard Championships in Biarritz, France.

Joey Hawkins

Born and raised in Southern, California, Joey Hawkins began surfing at age 3, lying on the nose of his dad’s board. He was standing by age 8 and was soon a surfing fanatic. He moved with his family to Huntington Beach where the regular footer honed his short board skills and joined the ranks of the Huntington Beach High School surf team under legendary professional surfer and coach, Peter “PT” Townend. However, a back injury (specifically a herniated disk) suffered while surfing Salt Creek in 1988 derailed Hawkins’ competitive hopes. With an extended recuperation ahead and his surf engines revving, Hawkins turned to longboarding for its easier paddling and lack of required gyrations in efforts to hasten recovery time.

Ironically, however, Hawkins found the longboard’s large planing surface a perfect canvas for applying swathes of shortboard slash and acrobatics. By age 19, he was competing and winning at the amateur level, and with the support of his parents, he soon turned pro. Hawkins’ progressive moves broke with longboard orthodoxy, pitting both his style and equipment against that of the “classic” longboarders who dominated the sport. Chris Ahrens writes in his article “On Safari to Burn”,Coast News Group “There was some new blood out there…a brand of longboarding where turning was king and Huntington Beach’s Joey Hawkins and San Clemente’s Jeff Kramer led the pack on light, thin, highly rockered sticks that measured no more than the legally required limit of nine feet.”

At 22 years old, Hawkins won the 1992 Longboard Championships in Biarritz, France, pocketing $6,000. He beat the reigning champ, Aussie Martin McMillan in the semi-final and took down Joel Tudor in the final. Historically, Joey Hawkins was the first American longboard champ in “modern” surfing after 6 consecutive Australian champs. The momentous win appeared a guarantee of success for the blonde haired Californian champion, but little fanfare followed beyond a handshake with President Bush outside Air Force One at El Toro Marine Corps, Air Station (after which he replied, “I might as well vote for him). But according to reporter Jaimee Lynn Fletcher, Hawkins didn’t return to the “praise he had hoped.” In fact, as the reigning world champ, he was virtually ignored by the press and eventually experienced a judging backlash to his shortboard approach. Without major sponsor interest or local fanfare, he became disillusioned with professional surfing, eventually leaving competition in 2000. 4 years later, Longboard Magazine referred to Hawkins as “The most overlooked world champion in surfing history.” According to his father, “[Hawkins] didn’t even get a star for the Surfing Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach and he is the only world professional champion from Huntington Beach.”

Regardless of how history writes his story, Joey Hawkins led a worldwide surfing movement and rode its momentum to a world title. But while progressive surfing was never accepted as the heir to the 60-inspired status quo, Hawkins was for a moment the king of longboard surfing. Strangely though, the world overlooked his contributions. As Chris Ahrens writes, Hawkins was “lost in history’s dust…” But that isn’t the end of the Joey Hawkins story. As of December, 2011, the former champ was clean and back in the water. Competing and getting fit, Hawkins told Jaimie Lynn Fletcher, “If anything, I’m so grateful I had surfing as a get-well activity. It’s a gift. I just want to surf for my whole life.”

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