Surfing Legend and Cocoa Beach Resident Gary Propper Passes Away March 15 at Age 72

By  //  March 16, 2019

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Surfing magazine: 'the East Coast's hotdog ambassador to the world'

Gary Propper, a Florida surfing icon and accomplished entrepreneur, passed away Friday evening.  Propper was the first international-caliber surfer from the Eastern Seaboard, and the top-paid pro of his generation, according to Propper’s profile on EastCoastSurfingHallofFame.com. (Balsa Bill video – See Propper at the 3-minute mark)

East Coast Surfing Hall-of-Famer and 1966 Winner of the East Coast Surfing Championships Passed Away

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Gary Propper, a Florida surfing icon and accomplished entrepreneur, passed away Friday evening. 

The cause of death has not released.

Propper was the first international-caliber surfer from the Eastern Seaboard, and the top-paid pro of his generation, according to Propper’s profile on EastCoastSurfingHallofFame.com.

In 1966, he clinched the East Coast Surfing Championships and continued competing in the World Championships for years after that.

“Gary was a hotdogger in every sense of the word,” said fellow Floridian surf pro Mike Tabeling.

“He was flamboyant and cocky, had the muscle tone of a jaguar, and there was nothing he couldn’t do on a board.”

Gary Propper was the first international-caliber surfer from the Eastern Seaboard, and the top-paid pro of his generation, according to Propper’s profile on EastCoastSurfingHallofFame.com. (East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame image)

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Propper’s family moved to Miami, then Cocoa Beach, at which time the 13-year-old Propper began surfing.

Five years later, the fast-talking regularfooter won the juniors division of the 1964 East Coast Surfing Championships. He went on to become, as Surfing magazine put it, “the East Coast’s hotdog ambassador to the world.”

The baby-faced surfer from Cocoa Beach, Florida won the 1966 East Coast Surfing Championships and became the first international-caliber surfer from the Eastern Seaboard and the top-paid pro of his generation.

“He was the highest paid surfer of his time and the first surfer with a signature board, the Gary Propper model by Hobie, and sold around 3000 of them in 1967,” according to Propper’s profile on EastCoastSurfingHallofFame.com.

The Gary Propper model surfboard, made by Hobie Surfboards and introduced in 1966, went on to become the world’s best-selling signature model, with virtually all sales made between Florida and Maine.

The Gary Propper model surfboard, made by Hobie Surfboards and introduced in 1966, went on to become the world’s best-selling signature model, with virtually all sales made between Florida and Maine. (East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame image)

It was estimated that of the 6,000 surfboards Hobie made in 1967, nearly half were Propper models. He later claimed that his 1967 board royalties, added to the money he earned as a salesman for Katin surf trunks and O’Neill wetsuits, amounted to almost $100,000 for the year.

“I put down ‘Professional Surfer-Athlete’ on my ’64 tax returns,” Propper said in 1996. “It was the coolest.”

The reason he almost never turned up in 1960s-era surf movies, Propper also said, is that he demanded appearance fees from filmmakers, most of whom refused.

Propper became an entertainment promoter in the early 1970s, mentored by legendary San Francisco rock impresario Bill Graham, and was soon booking little-known bands like Devo, Blondie, and The Police into Florida clubs and halls.

Later, as a manager, he represented comedians Gallagher and Carrot Top. Propper made a small fortune in the early 1990s after securing the film rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book characters.

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In 1966, Gary Propper clinched the East Coast Surfing Championships and continued competing in the World Championships for years after that. (East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame image)

In 1966, Gary Propper clinched the East Coast Surfing Championships and continued competing in the World Championships for years after that. (East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame image)

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