In 1972, he took control of the New England district of the Eastern Surfing Association, the largest amateur surfing organization in the world, and began running contests; he designed surf boards for Hobie and Bic; he opened his own shop, Narragansett Surf & Skate.

By 1996, Pan had landed in the inaugural class of the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in Cocoa Beach, Florida. But he didn't stop there.

Pan, looking fit in a Yankees cap, sunglasses, and red shirt, still surfs in contests. He offers lessons out of his shop. And he serves up unfiltered opinions on the soccer momification of the sport.

"It just kind of ruins the whole atmosphere," he says.

But ultimately, he suggests, the tournaments — of the '70s or more recent vintage — are not what surfing is about. Surfing, he suggests, is about something more solitary. Man and water.

I ask him for his favorite surf spot. "My favorite spot," he says, "is wherever no one is."

Abruzzi_Jason_Evans_main
PEANUT BUTTER, WAVES, AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL A portrait of Abruzzi from Evans’s “Surf Island.”

THE SURF PUNK

If Peter Pan is the trim, sarcastic godfather of Rhode Island surfing, Sid Abruzzi is his punk rock alter ego.

Abruzzi's Water Brothers Surf & Skate shop in Newport is a menagerie of skulls, wrestling masks, and vintage skateboards.

Dozens of old photographs hang on his office walls, including one autographed by Christian Fletcher of surfing's first family: "To the Crustiest old Fukkin Pirate That I Have Ever Seen."

Abruzzi likes to talk of the revolutions of his youth. The music revolution, the surfing revolution. Iggy Pop, the Ramones, and shortboards.

Back then, he says, it was five guys meeting up in someone's basement, cobbling together wetsuits, and heading to Narragansett or Cape Cod or New Hampshire with no surf report to guide them. "The discovery was half the fun," he says.

That and flaunting authority.

In the fall of 1971, Abruzzi refused to get out of the water at Ruggles, where surfing was not allowed, and he was fined $10. But the protest he mounted led to legalized surfing on what is now considered one of the East Coast's premier big-wave breaks.

It is a story that even some of the young surfers I encountered could tell me; in a small state, past and present easily co-mingle.

On July 13 and 14, Abruzzi will curate his second annual Surf Fest at Doris Duke's Rough Point Mansion in Newport. There will be 300 boards, spanning the decades. And Abruzzi is expecting some 2000 people to come for the inspection, including more than a few from Rhode Island's far-flung surfing diaspora — the guys who gathered in the basement decades ago, living on peanut butter and waves and rock 'n' roll.

A few surf punks on the lawn.


THE PHOTOGRAPHER

The standard surfing picture is a glamour shot of a celebrity surfer taming some absurdly dangerous pipeline. In a place like Rhode Island, with no nationally recognized water men, that kind of photo is impossible.

But if the work of Newport photographer Jason Evans is any indication, there is something liberating about a starless surfscape.

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