The year was 1912, and in the then-sleepy seaside resort community of Virginia Beach, which had only been incorporated as a town six years prior, a young VB local received an unexpected package from his wayfaring uncle. In fact, James M. Jordan Jr. would soon come to be known for the massive redwood surfboard – weighing in at more than 100 lbs. and reaching more than 12 ft. in length – that his uncle bought for him while on a trip to Hawaii. When the iconic board met the waves of the Atlantic for the first time, East Coast surfing was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the century that has followed since James Jordan’s first ride on the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach has produced a host of well-known wave riders, in addition to being home to the esteemed East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC), the second longest continuously run surfing contest in the world. Early resident surfers like Babe Braithwaite and Bob Holland Sr. were instrumental in bringing ECSC to Virginia Beach, from its previous home in New Jersey, and paving the way for those who followed. Local legends, Pete Smith, who started the popular Freedom Surf Shop, and Bob Holland Jr. opened Smith and Holland Surf Shop on 19th Street in 1962, which was the first surf shop of its kind in the state of Virginia. A few years later, fellow local star, Bob White, opened Wave Riding Vehicles, which remains one of the top board manufacturers on the East Coast. With boards becoming more easily accessible, the Virginia Beach surfing scene has continued to grow ever since.
From the birthplace of East Coast surfing to the time-honored East Coast Surfing Championship, surfing is a way of life for many in Virginia Beach. Don’t be fooled. Though the waves may often be small, many who have ridden them have become larger than life and have forever changed the face of surfing in America. The only question is: who will be next?