“I’m a local” is a phrase you commonly hear in the surfing community. Often you hear it at your local break from someone who has been around for five or maybe ten years, trying to assert their status in the line-up.
Bill Longnecker, in Neptune Beach, Florida is a local. He still lives in the same clapboard house his father bought in 1952, east of A1A, and a short walk from the beach. Both the blue-painted house and Bill are weathered and toughened by a lifetime lived by the sea. They are a holdout against the relentless rising tide of condos, resorts and multi-million-dollar mansions that have swallowed up so much of the coastline. Bill’s garage is filled with just what you would expect to see in a surfer’s garage. Surfboards of all types, surf kayaks and other ocean paraphernalia, all with a patina that comes from constant exposure to the ocean.
Bill recently donated his collection of surf magazines to the museum, a treasure trove of surfing history. Included are magazines going back to 1963-early issues of bi-monthly Surfer, Surf Guide, Surfing Illustrated, and much more from every decade. We value these, not as collectibles, but as a window into surfing history. You can see some of these on our website- Library – Florida Surf Museum.
Bill is best known locally for his daily surf reports. In 2024, Bill will mark his 40th year as a phone surf reporter. It all began in 1984 when Bill Hixon of Hixon’s Surf Shop asked Bill if he wanted to get paid for his daily surf checks. At $50 a month and store credit, Bill took over and continued until Hixon’s ended its nearly 30-year reign in 1990. Bill now has his daily report available on the Sunrise Surf Shop webpage. Give Bill a call at 904-241-0933.
“As of 2024, I will probably be the longest running phone surf reporter in Florida, if not in surfing’s history. Forty years of 6:30 am first updates and as many as 8 a day! I based my style on Huntington Beach lifeguard Raymond Bray’s surf report which I would call while staying in Costa Mesa in 1966,” says Bill. “Bray’s reports came complete with surf conditions, weather, wind, and water temps.”
Bill Longenecker started surfing in 1960 on a wooden bellyboard using swim fins. He bought a homemade wooden hollow board for $25 in 1961. It took two people to carry the 10-foot monster and it would fill with water and had to be drained after each surf. In June 1964, Bill made his first trip to California while his brother Steve was a teacher for Long Beach City Schools. He drove Bill to Laguna Beach to order his first true custom surfboard from Fred Wardy’s shop. Over 50 years later, Bill found his old Wardy at a Fort George Island surf shop! Dan Brooks, owner of Sunrise Surf Shop in Jacksonville Beach, secretly arranged to buy the Wardy and sell it to Bill at a much-reduced price from what the other shop had offered.
As Bill walks in from the calm morning waves, he grabs the phone in his garage and dials in. Pressing a few numbers, he records his report, only to update it several times later in the day. This is his morning routine and has been for four decades and counting.
Surfing is so important to so many people,” says Longnecker. ” It’s not like any other sport; you’re competing against the ocean. You don’t have to go out there and beat someone else up or put someone else down to be the best.