Spencer, Yancy


Energetic regularfoot surfer and surf shop owner from Pensacola, Florida; winner of the East Coast Pro in 1972, and founder of Innerlight Surf Shop; sometimes referred to as the "godfather of Gulf Coast surfing." Spencer was born (1950) in Roanoke, Virginia, moved with his family at age two to Pensacola, and began surfing at 14. Two years later he won the juniors division of the Florida Gulf Coast Championships.

Greg Noll Surfboards in California produced the Yancy Spencer signature model in 1970, making Spencer the first and only Gulf Coast surfer to have his own model; two years later the cherubic Floridian with the blond curls went undefeated on his way to a $1,000 first-place finish in the East Coast Pro, the first professional surf meet held in the Atlantic Ocean, knocking out a tough field of American heavyweights including David Nuuhiwa, Mike Tabeling, Dale Dobson, and Jeff Crawford. Spencer's wave-riding form, as reported by surf journalist David Sledge, was "cerebral, precise, delicate, [and] smooth." As the line between professional and amateur was almost nonexistent at the time, Spencer also finished runner-up in the 1975 United States Surfing Championships, an amateur event.

Spencer opened the first Innerlight Surf Shop in 1972, in the town of Gulf Breeze, near Pensacola; a second Innerlight outlet opened in Pensacola three years later; a third shop opened in Fort Walton Beach in 1981. More outlets were added in the years to come. Spencer's born-again Christianity was a big part of Innerlight's marketing throughout the 1970s; one ad showed a portrait of him with a boldface tag line reading, "Whoever Imagined That I Would Be a Surfing Preacher!?!"

Spencer appeared in a small number of surf movies, including The Natural Art (1969); from 1972 to 1981 he authored a half-dozen articles for Surfer magazine, including a 1979 editorial on the importance of good style in surfing. "Doing a maneuver with style," he wrote, "is doing it the right way and not the easy way, and is the difference between mediocrity and greatness." He continued to compete as an amateur: in 1986 he won the senior men's division of the United States Surfing Championships, and in 1987 he finished runner-up in both the senior men's and the longboard divisions. In 1996 he was inducted to the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame.

Spencer died of a heart attack in 2011, at age 60, while surfing Malibu. Sterling Spencer, his youngest son, was by then both a pro surfer and the creater of Pinch My Salt, a popular surf blog.