Remembering Yancy Spencer III

Remembering Yancy Spencer III

East Coast Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductee 1996

Cecil Lear called me with the news – Yancy Spencer had died. He was only 60, and in amazing shape in every respect of the word. He had been surfing in Malibu and came in because he didn’t feel well. Paramedics were called but were unable to save him.

Although far too soon, Yancy Spencer (who always threw in that “the third”) part, had about as graceful a departure as any of us can hope for – he was at peace with his God, he had led an amazing personal and professional life, a devoted family. He had done tremendous good for his community and others, and in those last moments, he was doing what he loved most: Walking on water.

“I remember when he first came up to the Delaware/Maryland area and started surfing. He was such a nice young fellow nad turned into a great surfer,” recalls Lear, founder of ESA. “He really put the gulf coast on the map. He was very influencial in getting a lot of favorable publicity for surfing in the Panhandle.” .

Yancy’s surfing career began on a Hutson surfboard (named after the Pensacola hardware store where they were built. “It was May 1, 1965, and I was 14,” said Spencer in a 2009 interview. “There was a small southwest windswell, and the waves were small, easy for somebody who had never been in the Gulf with a surfboard. I went out and caught the first wave. I saw my friends standing up to watch, and I got embarrassed and flipped off the board. But I was wondering what would have happened if I’d stayed on. After that I was like a man on a mission – I paddled right back out, caught the next wave and rode it all the way to the beach. By that second wave, I was addicted to the sport of surfing.”

Within six months, he was surfing competitively; and by 1966 he had free surfboards and a weekly salary, surfing for Challenger. In 1969, he met Skip Savage who helped arrange a deal surfing and shaping for Greg Noll. In 1970, Spencer was ranked the #1 surfer in the Gulf Coast Surfing Association – at that time, the largest organized surfing association in the world. By now he had signed with Blue Cheer, who was producing a Yancy Spencer model surfboard. Then in 1971, he formed a company with east-coast surfer Jimbo Brothers and Hank Warner, his California shaper, calling it AGP (for Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific). And by the time Blue Cheer went out of business in 1972 , Spencer took over the shop and changed the name to Innerlight, which now has locaitons in Gulf Breeze, Pensacola, Destin, and in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Spencer went undefeated to a first-place finish in the 1972 Eastern Surfing Association Pro, beating a crowd of top-ranked surfers that included David Nuuhiwa, Mike Tabeling, Gary Propper, Greg Loehr, Dale Dobson and Jeff Crawford. In 1975, he took second in the US Surfing Championship when it was held for the first time in Texas. Other honors include placement in the 1986 and 1987 US Surfing Championships; and in the mid-90s, he won the masters division (40 and over) of the US Pro Longboard in Malibu. After Easter Surf in Cocoa Beach in 2005, he decided to focus his attention and travel time on son Yancy, the latest in the line of Spencer surf royalty. Only 23-years-old at the time, Sterling already boasted a string of sponsors and titles.

Those who knew Yancy also know his work in the Christian ministry and community service. He left a big, broad brush-stroke of a legacy and he lived – really lived – the time he was granted. On February 14, 2011, I bet he still had the same answer as when I originally asked him how, after all this time, does it feel when he grabs a board and heads into the surf. He had looked out at the gulf water and smiled. “It’s just the same as when I picked up that surfboard when I was 14.”

Photos by....
Innerlight surf shop and Remembering Yancy Spencer III
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