Riding the Waves of Change
James Edward “Scoop” Collins and his wife, Anne on the Ocean City beach near 7th Street in 1942.
Collins crafted the 13 foot surfboards they are
holding out of mahogany
The evolution of the sport of surfing in Ocean City, Maryland is as unique as the Town itself. Through the years the surfboards have changed as well as the fashions, attitudes and the public's perception of what surfers are all about. Ocean City has only 10 miles of beach and with the increase of development and the competition between surfers and other beach lovers over the years some conflicts have arisen.
George Bert Cropper standing with his board in 1992
Photograph by Sarah Tilghman. Courtesy of the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture Folklore Collection
There are many people claiming to be the “first” Ocean City Surfer. Distinctions for the first surfer also included local vs. vacationers. There isn’t any definitive proof of whom the very first Ocean City Surfer might be, but most definitely surfing in Ocean City can be traced back to Hawaii and Duke Kahanamoku.
Since there were no surf shops in Ocean City, or on the East Coast for that matter, anyone attempting to surf had to design and build their own boards.
One such example of an early board is George Bert Cropper’s. “Bert” was one of the locals that tried his hand at surfing. As a youngster living in Ocean City, Mr. Cropper had seen a young surfboard rider and got the idea to build his own board. He purchased a large plank of pine from The Adkins Company of Berlin (a local building supply store) and designed his own board. It resembled the boards of Hawaii in its design, probably since he had seen other boards that had been brought back from the islands. Initially it weighed 165 pounds and was 6 feet 8 inches long. He later drilled holes in the sides “as far as his bit would go” and plugged the ends to make the board somewhat lighter. The entire board was varnished then waxed.
When Bert went away to college his brothers, Bob and Harry inherited the board and painted it with Princeton University colors.
Surfer Vince Boulanger “catching some air” during the Dew Tour competition in 2011
Photograph courtesy of Alli Sports
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