This image of Sparky Hudson performing his signature cheater five appeared as a full page in Surfer Magazine in 1966. Photo by Ron Stoner
Sparky Hudson started surfing in front of his El Porto home when he was 12 on a beautiful 9-foot board his dad made for him. It weighed 58 pounds.
“It was so heavy I could barely lift it. It took me half an hour just to get the board down to the water and we lived a block from the surf,” Hudson recalled. “A year later we moved to 17th Street in Hermosa, half a block from the ocean. I got a new Bing surfboard and I was hooked.”
Just another cheater five in 1967 in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Steve Wilkings.
Though he moved to Hawaii shortly after graduating from Mira Costa High in 1965, he stayed in touch with his South Bay crew. On Saturday, they will welcome him back for his induction on the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame.
When Sparky moved to Hermosa Don Craig, now owner of the “Old Guy’s Rule” brand, Mark Roberts and myself became Sparky’s crew. We looked up to Sparky because he was a year older and did a great cheater-five. Whether or not he knew what he was talking about, he always insisted he did — and he could talk himself out of trouble at the drop of a hat. It was the early ‘60s and our parents were leery of Sparky and his Eddie Haskell persona. Every day was a new episode of “Leave it to Beaver” and our parents were far from pleased with Sparky’s knack for finding trouble. But they still always welcomed the smooth-talking, freckle faced kid from down the block to have dinner with us.
This photo by Leroy Grannis was used on a commemorative plate
Hudson’s lovely mom was Irish and he grew to hate cabbage and potatoes. My mom asked Sparky one time if his mom had an Irish brogue. Sparky replied “I don’t know what a brogue is, but she has a big shalaylee and it really hurts.”
We never missed a surf movie at Pier Avenue Junior High School Auditorium, (now the Hermosa Beach Community Center), or the Santa Monica Civic Center, where we made mental notes of our surfing idols’ best moves. Sparky had a smooth bottom turn with a beautiful backside drop knee style. But his nose riding was the key to his success. He was a master of the cheater five, extending the front foot over the nose while crouching down the line. Surfer Magazine photographer Rick Stoner and Surfing Magazine photographer Leroy Grannis picked up on it right away, giving Sparky plenty of exposure in the magazines.
Sparky and Akira in front of his house in Kahaluu on Oahu –the windward side.
We surfed every day, building on our reputations until we were invited to become members of the Jacobs Surf Team, which meant free surfboards with our old trade-ins. All our idols were on the Jacobs Surf Team and Sparky hung with the best in and out of the water. His favorite long boards were the ones Donald Takayama shaped for him and his best short boards were the ones Steve Schlickenmeyer and Jimmy Lewis shaped for him. The mid ‘60s was Sparky’s era. He was winning all the surf contests and featured in all the surf magazine ads. He not only appeared in the Jacobs Surfboards ads but did commercials for Chevrolet, Coca Cola , Laguna Swimwear, Hang Ten, and Kennington Clothing.
In his heydays, Sparky had eight Jacobs Surfboards in the 9-foot-8 to 10-foot range, including Donald Takayama Models, Lance Carson Models and a few 422s that Hap Jacobs himself shaped.
After graduating from Mira Costa High, Sparky competed on the pro circuit for four years. He ripped on the Jacobs 422 better than anyone else on the team, with the exception of Ricky Irons. He said his inspiration during the ‘60s included Donald Takayama, Lance Carson and Dewey Weber and in the early ‘70s David Nuuhiwia and Billy Hamilton.
Saturday’s Walk of Fame induction will be the first opportunity for Sparky’s old crew to get back together since a party his sister held for him at the family’s Hermosa Beach home three years ago.
During that party, Hap jacobs walked up to Sparky and said, “Out of all the people I expected to make it past 60 you would be last on my list.”
Sparky and I laughed even though we knew Hap was serious.
He and I had talked Hap into making us new surfboards for the 1964 Santa Monica Mid Winter Surfing Championships. Then, we almost missed our first heat because we were still drunk from partying the night before.
Hap was furious. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you guys,” he said.
Sparky told Hap not to worry. We both threw up in our first heats but still managed to advance.
Sparky went on to win the men’s division and I won the junior men’s division.
“See, I told you not to worry,” Sparky told the Hap.
Today, Sparky is the first one to help drug addicted or alcoholic South Bays surfers get into a program when they visit Hawaii.