While it’s more commonly referred to as “The Pond of Mexico” that doesn’t stop local surfers from finding the occasional wave out near the Pensacola Beach pier, many are even surprised to learn that Pensacola has a surf team that travels across the nation. Though the area isn’t notorious for surfing like places in California or Hawaii, it is at least on the map and that’s all thanks to Yancy Spencer III.
Originally born in Virginia in 1950, Spencer made his way to the Pensacola Bay area and started surfing in the mid-1960s. By the time he was 21, Spencer had made a name for himself across the nation despite the relatively calm surf conditions in the area. During his surfing career, Spencer became very well decorated, winning the Gulf Coast Championships, the East Coast Championships, the U.S. Pro Longboard Championships, the U.S. National Senior Men’s Surfing Championships and was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996.
“I think one of the reasons my dad got so good was the Gulf Coast surf conditions. Florida surfers learn how to be great on mediocre waves. It trains you, gives you endurance. He was such an artist when it came to surfing,” Spencer’s daughter, Abigail, expressed in an interview with Garden & Gun.
In February of 2011, Spencer passed away after suffering a heart attack following surfing at one of his favorite spots in California. To honor the great Gulf Coast surfer, many locals paddled into the Gulf for a memorial. In 2013, a statue of him was erected on Pensacola Beach in his honor. While the father of Gulf Coast surfing is no longer with us, his legacy lives on.
Spencer wasn’t just a professional surfer, but a business owner as well. Yancy and his brother JB opened Innerlight Surf Shop in 1969. At what started in a 400-square foot cinder block building grew into what is now five locations that span from Pensacola to Destin. Since his passing, the Spencer family has kept his dream and legacy alive through his business and an annual memorial surf contest. Presently, Innerlight offers surf camps, rental services and plain good vibes for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
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