John "Jack" Hannon
John "Jack" Hannon was born in 1927 in Bellmore New York. John is known as the Father of New York Surfing; due to the pivotal roll he played at the beginning of modern surfing there. When John, a teacher and skier, began the sport surfboards were a rare commodity in New York. The first wave-rider he remembers seeing was Bill Coleman, captain of the Jones Beach Lifeguards, circa 1938. The chance encounter was enough to inspire him to try it himself which he did at around 11 or 12 years of age as he recalls, "I don't even remember if I got to (the point of) standing up on the board." John would reflect years later.
This focused New York athlete also played a short time with the Green Bay Packers.
John became a Jones Beach lifeguard at age 16 in 1943. At the East Overlook he found he had access to Tom Blake paddleboards, they were starting to show their age. Some were waterloged. Jack said he restored one to good condition which he used as his personal board. He doesn't remember seeing any recreational surfers when he started guarding but does remember seeing an older lifeguard named Tom Melville, who was from another beach, riding waves with his rescue board.
The first surfboard John owned was one he purchased at the Hobie Surf Shop while he was in California before returning to the East Coast. According to John, up until that point he had only ridden Jones Beach Lifeguard boards.
The Class of 1996
John subsequently opened up a surfboard rental stand at the Gilgo Beach Inn, the first in New York, where he would instruct newbies in the art of surfing. Because of his new business venture he was directly responsible for passing "The Stoke" and starting hundreds surfing. At that time surfing was, at best, a novelty or curiosity to most of the population.
John began mass-producing boards and opened one of New York's first surf shops, John Hannon Surfboards, which thrived for eight years. He made hundreds and hundreds of boards some of which were freighted to surf shops as far away as Maine. Understandably, his shapes are considered very valuable to today's collectors.
John was an original inductee into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996.
[Credit: Mike Tabeling's East Coast Surfing History]