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Rasmussen, Rick


Hard-charging, rock-and-rolling goofyfooter from Westhampton, New York; winner of the 1974 United States Surfing Championships. Rasmussen was born in 1955, the son of an aerospace test pilot and former pro basketball player, raised in Maine, and began surfing at age 10, not long after his family moved to an affluent Westhampton neighborhood.

As a juniors division surfer Rasmussen placed fourth in the 1972 U.S. Championships, first in the 1973 East Coast Championships, and third in the 1973 U.S. Championships; moving up to the men's division in 1974, the blond-haired 18-year-old finished fifth in the East Coast Championships, then became the first East Coast male to win a U.S. surfing title—taking the kneeboard division for good measure.

Rasmussen was known by that time not only for his aggressive small-wave style, but as a hellfire tuberider, gaining praise from surfers like Gerry Lopez after threading his way through some enormous barrels at Pipeline in Hawaii. He was also one of the first East Coasters to travel Indonesia, riding Uluwatu in Bali in early 1976, then visiting Java's Grajagan the following year. Along with New Jersey pro surfer Linda Davoli and TV actor Gregory Harrison, Rasmussen was filmed at Grajagan in 1980 for an episode of ABC-TV's American Sportsman. He also appeared in a half-dozen surf movies, including Fantasea (1978) and Bali High (1981). Throughout the '70s, Rasmussen shaped surfboards for Clean and Natural (his own label) and Rick Rasmussen Surfboards.

In 1979, after being charged with possession of a kilo of cocaine while in Bali, Rasmussen spent three months in prison awaiting trial, then won an acquittal. Two years later he was arrested after selling $500,000 worth of heroin to a New York undercover agent. Less than 10 months later, and one week before he was to be sentenced on trafficking charges, Rasmussen was shot and killed in Harlem, following a Times Square-initiated drug deal. He was 27.

Rasmussen was inducted into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame in 2000.