Born in 1930 in Irvington, New Jersey, Lear grew up in the nearby town of Caldwell. His family summered on the Jersey Shore at Belmar, where Lear now lives. The summer property was bought by his grandfather in 1920 and his family moved to the area permanently in 1946.
"From what I have been able to research, there were tents on the property way before I was born," says Lear. "My family built a little bungalow and we moved here right after World War II."
We used to clam and crab and fish and all that."
Hitting the beach at low tide as a kid, he grew up like many Hall of Famers - surfing with surf mats. Lear also learned to body surf when he was 10-years-old and became a lifeguard with many of his buddies during his junior year of high school.
"I got involved with all the water sports available in the area," he remembers. "Rowing, swimming, and anything we could ride waves on. Then, going on to college with all my friends, I still worked as lifeguard and we would ride waves with a surf boat."
A lifetime waterman, Cecil was turned on to surfing in his early 30's. He founded the New Jersey Surfing Association in 1963 and at the ripe old age of 32 found himself bitten by the magical bug called "surfing". He began to travel the East Coast, chocolate chip cookies in hand, exploring strange new places with exotic names like Narragansett, Gilgo Beach, Cape Hatteras and Canaveral Pier. Along the way he ran into the little bands of surfers who populated these areas, isolated from each other like Stone Age cultures yet beginning to reach out and come into contact with each other.
1967, Cecil Lear, a young advertising executive from New Jersey, and Rudy Huber, a jet setting trust fund baby from Connecticut with connections to the world of international surfing got together to plot out the creation of what would come to be the largest and longest lived amateur surfing body, the Eastern Surfing Association. Backed by Hoppy Swarts, the "Duke" of competitive amateur surfing in America, and at a time when the dissolution of the original U.S. Surfing Association threatened to destroy the only coherent amateur surfing program in the U.S., Cecil and Rudy conceived the basic outline of an East Coast-based, East Coast-run surfing organization that would unite what were then a scattered group of little independent surfing "fiefdoms" which were emerging at that time up and down the East Coast.
The co-founder of the ESA and the president of the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.
He one of the original East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame inductees in 1996, Lear actually helped decide who the Hall should consider for that original honor and was humbled they also decided to include him.
"Gregg Noll came up with the idea for the Hall of Fame and it was a great idea," says Lear, current president of the organization. As the original Competition Director for the ESA, Lear was also one of the first to surf the "Jersey Shore" He has been an active member of the ESA Board of Directors for decades and a major force behind the scenes in virtually every important decision that has ever been made in the ESA. Cecil created the entire competition program for the ESA, and the guidelines still used by the United States Surfing Federation and worldwide.
[Credit: exherpts Surf Guru]