There is a bench at Tourmaline Surfing Park in Pacific Beach that bears the name of a local surfer: Larry Gordon. To people new to the area, the bench and the name on it may not have much meaning, but to people from San Diego, it’s something very special.
It’s a reminder of one of San Diego’s pioneering surfboard builders and the co-founder of the legendary surfboard brand Gordon and Smith.
Just a few months ago, friends and family got together to dedicate that bench to Gordon, who was 76 and in declining health due to Parkinson’s disease. He could still sit and watch the waves at his favorite beach then, and eat doughnuts with the local beach kids on Sunday mornings. Gordon died New Year’s Day.
He was a Pacific Beach mainstay for 60 years. In a small PB garage, he and partner Floyd Smith started an iconic surfboard brand. G&S grew and launched the careers of surfing legends such as Skip Frye and the star of “Endless Summer,” Mike Hynson, as well as dozens of other surfers, surfboard shapers and board builders.
Over the past 50 years, G&S always made it a point to hire the finest craftsmen to build surfboards and skateboards, and many of those who worked for Gordon are now considered legends in the surf industry.
On a personal level, some of my earliest memories of the brand include getting my first pair of Vans from their shop on Pacific Beach Drive in the mid ‘70s when I was in third grade. I went to school with Larry’s youngest daughter Erin, beginning in junior high, and I have known the family well for 30 years. They are some of the finest people I have ever met.
Memorial paddle out
When: 9 a.m. Jan. 18
Where: Tourmaline Surfing Park, 600 Tourmaline St., North Pacific Beach
G&S was always a brand that meant something to San Diego surfers because we all, at some point, knew somebody who worked there or bought something they made. Later, they hired our friends, they promoted our heroes, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t have the coolest logos in all of surfing.
While Larry’s health had been declining for the past 10 years, he was still involved with the brand and loved to surf, almost up to the very end. While the world will remember Larry as an industry icon and a savvy businessman, his real legacy is that of a surfer who followed his heart, loved the ocean and was the father to a great family.
On Jan. 1, Larry’s daughter Debbie posted this on Facebook:
“Past the waves that are breaking, past the gulls, past the spray, past even the hearts that are breaking, and into God’s throne room to stay. All’s well with my soul.” - Gayle Gordon
Larry Gordon: Dec 13 1939 - Jan 1 2016
He will be missed.
Larry’s memory will live on in every board that bears his logo and from every surfer and shaper who got a start working for him. The reach Larry Gordon had in the surf industry is the stuff of legend, but the character of the man surpasses the word, more than you would ever believe.
Ride on, Larry. Thank you for everything.
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him thoughts about the surfing and fitness worlds to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.