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Surfers remember announcer Mike Morgan
Surfers remember announcer Mike Morgan
SEAL BEACH – Mike Morgan had a way of bring people together.
Even seven years after his passing, the contest announcer known for his sense of humor and endless surf stoke was remembered for those qualities during a paddle-out fundraiser held in his name Saturday. Morgan died in 2005 at age 44.
Friends of Morgan – some of whom happen to be the best surfers from our area – get together each year to remember, a gathering of surfers from Seal Beach and Huntington Beach and beyond to share stories about their friend. The paddle-out also marks the kick off to a surf contest held in his name, the Morgan's Wave of the Day Expression Session Fundraiser, which has a waiting period through March 15. Surfline.com makes a call on which day the contest will run during now and that period.
"He's a very special man. Morgan had a way of bringing people together, and I want to continue that," said organizer and longtime friend Chris Sardelis.
The invite-only contest brings together 18 surfers known for being able to take on the heavy, barreling break on the south side of the pier. The list is impressive and is made up of some of the area's best surfers, like World Tour surfer Brett Simpson, Chris Waring, Teddy Navarro and more.
Like the "Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau" event held in Hawaii, the contest will only run if the waves are in the above average-to-excellent range, Sardelis said.
So far, about $4,000 has been raised to benefit the Wounded Warriors and the Seal Beach Junior Lifeguards, with the fundraising efforts continuing until the surf contest is held.
Simpson, of Huntington Beach, showed up for the tribute to pay respect to Morgan, who he remembers commentating back when Simpson was doing the National Scholastic Surfing Association circuit as a kid.
"He was super influential to us. He was a commentator, but he was also a good friend who I surfed with every day," Simpson said. "It's just cool that everyone comes and shows respect. It's been a while, but he'll always be remembered."
Looking back, Simpson can now understand all the lessons that Morgan was teaching the younger generation.
"He taught us respect in the water. He's taught me a lot," Simpson said. "You want to take what he taught you, and teach the younger kids as well. He was just a good human."
Morgan grew up in the Long Beach and Seal Beach area, getting his first surf gig at Harbour Surfboards. In the 1980s, he was a nationally-ranked surfer for the National Scholastic Surfing Association national team. He then became a coach and in the 1990s took to the mic to start announcing events. He was often called the Chick Hearn of surfing.
Brad Nadell, owner of surf shop Foam-EZ, said Morgan was a father figure with a funny, charismatic personality.
"When I first started surfing, he took me under his wing. He taught me how to surf contests," said Nadell, a Seal Beach surfer. "We were really tight, and he used to take me around surfing. He taught me the reigns of the whole surf things. I just have great memories of him here."
Former longboard world champ Joey Hawkins said Morgan's love and enthusiasm for the sport was infectious. The two carpooled to surf contests together, spending hours and days on the road.
"He was such a pillar of surf stoke. More than anything, he just resonated and radiated surfing stoke," Hawkins said.
The tribute started with the surfers gathering around Huntington Beach pastor Sumo Sato for a prayer.
"I think he'd be stoked of all our relationships. Water binds us all. He loved to surf, he loved the water," Sato said to the crowd. "What holds people together is the relationships we have with one another."
After the prayer, about 20 surfers headed into the sparkling, chilly waters to form a circle, splashing water to the sky. Just as they finished up, a set brought wave after wave, the surfers scattering to catch a few fun ones.
"Morgan came through for us today, hooked us up with beautiful weather and some little barrels for us," said pro surfer Chris Waring, of Huntington Beach. "Morgan was definitely watching over us today."
More info: morgansbestwave.com
Contact the writer: Lconnelly@ocregister.com