Bob Holland is one of the sport's founding fathers. He played a critical role in bringing the nation's oldest surfing competition to Virginia Beach.
As Virginia Beach's surf community grew, Holland, Pete Smith, Butch Maloney and a handful of others longed for a taste of competition like the kind they heard was taking place on the West Coast. So they headed in 1961 to a loosely organized contest on Long Island's Gilgo Beach. They returned a year later for the first East Coast Surfing Championships, and the following summer helped form the Virginia Beach Surfing Carnival. In 1965, both groups joined forces and the current East Coast Surfing Championships - which will hold the 51st annual event this month - was formed.
"It's amazing what everybody has done over the years to keep the event going," Holland said. "It feels good to know that we helped get all that started."
Mr. Holland won titles in several ECSC divisions. He won Eastern titles and took a pair of division wins away from the heavily favored West Coasters at the U.S. Open Championships of Surfing. He was the first East Coast surfer to win at the Open, a badge of honor he wears with pride.
"Nobody thought back then that anybody from our shore could compete," he said. "We were good surfers, so you knew it was bound to happen.
"That it was me is a big deal to me."
When waves are good, Mr. Holland continues to show the classic style that made him an icon of the sport. Bob Holland, 84, still surfs as much as he can. When the swell isn't surfable, he paddles up and down the coast to maintain his youthful physique.
"He's got the perfect build for surfing," his son Bobby said. "And the best balance I've ever seen."
When waves are good, Holland continues to show the classic style that made him an icon of the sport.
[Credit:: Virginia Pilot Lee Toliver]