Crawford, Jeff

Hard-charging goofyfooter from Melbourne, Florida; Pipeline Masters winner in 1974, and the dominant surfer at Florida's Sebastian Inlet throughout the '70s and early '80s.

Crawford was born (1952) in Melbourne, the son of an army colonel, grew up on or near military bases in Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Virginia, and began surfing at age 16, at New Smyrna Beach, Florida, after his father became the commander of nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Just three years later he won the men's division of the 1971 Florida State Championships, and had become the alpha male in the often-vicious Sebastian Inlet lineup. ("Crawford," as a fellow Inlet surfer later recalled, not mincing words, "was an all-time loudmouth and wavehog.")

Just weeks after a runner-up finish in the 1972 United States Championships, Crawford was a semifinalist in World Championships, held that year in San Diego. Although the blond-haired Crawford was severely beaten up by local surfers during his first visit to the North Shore in 1973—he rode Hawaii with the same voluble aggression he used at Sebastian—he jumped directly to the front rank at Pipeline. Two years later he received his first invitation to the Pipeline Masters, and beat former Masters winners Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell in the finals to become the first East Coast surfer to win the prestigious event.

Crawford placed fifth in the Lightning Bolt Pro and the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in 1975, both held on the North Shore. In 1976 he was world-ranked 16th, and in 1978 he finished 12th; he won the Florida Pro, a world pro tour event, in 1977 and 1978, and remained a part-time competitor on the world tour until the end of the 1987 season.

Crawford learned how to shape boards in the early '70s, began selling Jeff Crawford Surfboards out of his house in 1974, opened Inlet Surf and Sport in 1979 (later renamed Crawford Surf and Wear), and opened two more retail outlets in the mid-'80s. He fled the country for Indonesia in 1991 to avoid prosecution on what he later referred to as "some illegal business transactions." Two years later he moved to South Africa, and in 1994 he returned to Florida, resolved his legal and financial problems, settled in Melbourne, and began to breed and sell exotic animals, including zebras, rhinos, and leopards.

Crawford appeared in more than a dozen surf films in the 1970s, including Going Surfin' (1973), Fluid Drive (1974), and Tales from the Tube (1975). He was inducted into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame in 2002.