VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Bob Freeman; Surfing Champ, No. 1 Ranked Grandmaster
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // November 30, 2016
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ABOVE VIDEO: All in all, when Bob Freeman took inventory of his trophy room, he counted over 500 trophies, about 200 of which he donated to the East Coast Surfing Museum to be recycled and used for its Waterman’s Challenge, a surf contest to raise money for the museum. As an ambassador of surfing and the surf community, Freeman has been a mainstay at charity surf festivals, and recently established an annual $1,000 Surfing Scholarship designed for students who enjoy surfing.
BOB FREEMAN – 2014 INDUCTEE
• Ron Jon Surf Team Member
• Florida State Surfing Champion
• No. 1 Ranked Grandmaster
LOCAL SURFING ICON
Bob Freeman isn’t your average surfer.
Sure, he’s ridden big waves around the globe, won multiple titles at the Florida Sate Surfing Championships, and is a long-time surf reporter and forecaster, but the 65-year-old Cocoa Beach resident, and life-long surfer, is doing something not many his age can claim: He has rejoined the surf team on which he was an original member simply to demonstrate that surfing is a sport for all ages.
The Ron Jon Surf Team, a group of surfers who are sponsored by Ron Jon Surf Shop and participate in a variety of surfing competitions around the world, is currently comprised of 14 surfers ranging in age from 9 to 36 years old.
Freeman was 19 when he joined the team for a two-year stint in 1968.
“I want people to know that surfing is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages,” said Freeman. “Plus, I love a challenge and nothing makes me happier than being around surfers and competing out on the waves.”
In 1964, at the age of 15, Freeman cut his surfer’s teeth on the waves of the outer banks around Atlantic Beach and Shackleford Banks, North Carolina. Over the next couple of years, he became one of the surfing pioneers in that area of the country.
His surfing career almost ended before it really got started in 1966 when he and a couple of his surfing comrades embarked on an adventure to ride the swells off of Atlantic Beach caused by category 1 Hurricane Faith, which was passing by well off shore.
In an attempt to get out to the “big sets” he misjudged the wind, and the currents and drift carried him farther out where, after a harrowing three hours, he was finally picked up by the Ft. Macon Coast Guard.
SURFING ON THE SPACE COAST: A WAY OF LIFE
Shortly after that incident, he moved to Cocoa Beach (CB), a hotbed of surfing on Florida’s east coast, and easily fell into the wild and wooly CB surf culture.
“The scene was right out of those old surf movies like Ride the Wild Surf,” Freeman says fondly. “After a day working the waves on my 9’6” Hansen Competitor, we partied all night on the beach at Jetty Park and jumped back into the inlet again at dawn just like in the old Gidget surf movies.”
In 1968 Ron Jon’s founder, Ron Dimenna, recommended Freeman for one of 6 East Coast slots for the Hansen Competition Team, surfing out of the Ron Jon shop, launching one of the most prolific and successful pro/am surfing careers of that era.
He became captain of the East Coast team, placed second at the East Coast Championships and won the men’s open division Florida State Championships while surfing for Hansen.
Over the next several years he surfed competitively up and down the East Coast, racking up multiple championships and performing at a level that kept him consistently near the top of the pro/am circuit.
It wasn’t just the surfing along the Space Coast that drew Freeman to Cocoa Beach, but also his passionate determination to, as he says, “launch rockets and be a part of putting a man on the moon.”
Starting as a mail clerk, he moved rapidly up through the ranks at KSC, and as a propulsion engineer helped launch Apollo missions 8, 10, 12 and 14.
With the demise of the Apollo program he became an accountant and software developer, and today is the Manufacturing Scheduler at Embraer Executive Jets.
In 1975, at the ripe old age of 26 and now a respectable businessman, husband and father, Freeman captured the Cape Canaveral 4th of July Surfing Festival All-Around Surfer Award out dueling 300 entries, and also finished third in the Division for 25 year olds and up.
Although still an avid surfer, other responsibilities occupied his time in the late-70s and early-80s. However, with his son, Bobby, into surfing in his early-teens, Freeman got back into competition in a big way in the mid-80s.
Over the past 30 years, Freeman has continued to surf competitively and win consistently in both long board and short board classes, including a No. 1 ranking in both the Eastern Surf Association (ESA) Longboard and Grandmaster’s divisions in 1995, 27 overall first-place finishes in 2000, the ESA district title in the Legends Longboard category in 2004, 10 Cocoa Beach Easterfest wins, and 13 National Kidney Foundation wins, often competing in more than one age category.
All in all, when he took inventory of his trophy room, Freeman counted over 500 trophies, about 200 of which he donated to the East Coast Surfing Museum to be recycled and used for its Waterman’s Challenge, a surf contest to raise money for the museum.
PAYING IT FORWARD TO THE SURF COMMUNITY
As an ambassador of surfing and the surf community, Freeman has been a mainstay at charity surf festivals, and recently established an annual $1,000 Surfing Scholarship designed for students who enjoy surfing (but skill level is not a factor) and are committed to pursuing a college education.
On his scholarship and rejoining the Ron Jon Team, Freeman says, “I’m stoked to be one of the elders of the sport and have the opportunity to spend quality time with the younger guys and gals. I feel like I’m ‘paying it forward,’ for all the great things surfing has done for me.”
THE 2016 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 13 with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. – and dinner and ceremony at 7 p.m.
For information about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com