Goodbye Yancy Spencer

| posted on February 16, 2011

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER’s Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

There are people throughout your life that shape the person you will become. Yancy Spencer was one such person to me from a young age. As the Gulf Coast’s first surf star, Yancy legitimized the sport and gave me hope that I could fulfill all my grandest dreams of becoming a professional surfer. Yancy and his two sons—Yancy IV and Sterling—traveled to many of the same amateur events that my father, brother, and I competed in as well. Many memories I have of those early events are of my father and Yancy on the beach watching the day’s heats. Yancy being much more knowledgeable in all things involving the surf world than my father, he would share invaluable information with him that would become the building blocks to the Lopez family’s future successes and smooth transition to the pro ranks.

Always just a phone call away, Yancy even advised us with a wealth of information he gained from successfully running his Innerlight shops, as Cory looked to open a surf shop of his own on our home beach of Indian Rocks. One of the greatest gifts you can give is the knowledge you have acquired throughout your life’s experiences that could benefit others as they navigate their own path through life. Yancy was never one to force himself on any situation, but if he was ever approached, he always found the time and way to assist to others.

In the water, Yancy could blend different wave-riding disciplines brilliantly. Yancy IV and Sterling became excellent surfers in their own right under his fatherly guidance and example. Sterling, although best known now for his quirky and odd sense of humor, is one of the better surfers of his generation. A few years back at a WQS event in Sebastian Inlet, Sterling beat Cory and me in back-to-back man-on-man heats while a huge crowd of Floridians watched. It was a huge statement for the younger Gulf Coaster and made a lot of people recognize Cory and I weren’t the only professional-caliber surfers to grow up on the Gulf of Mexico.

I know it is not a huge surf community, rich in surf culture, but Yancy Spencer was as noble of a surfer to ever call the Gulf of Mexico home. And to all of us that share the bond of having to surf some of the worst waves on the planet, he was our Duke. Your presence will be greatly missed, Yancy. Your legacy will live on forever.

  • Bongo

    sad to hear he passed!first met Yancy at the 1975 US Championships in Padre Island.and got to visit/surf with him a few times at his home.a true surfer and great inspiration!

  • Mike

    I will miss seeing his van parked along the beach road at the best break of the day because Yancy always knew exactly where the best sandbar and surf break would be based on the days conditions. I literally ran into Yancy back in 1965 while learning to surf at Pensacola Beach. He was 14 at the time and I was 17 and my board pearled and hit him right in the gut. I saw him many times in the years to come and don’t think he remembered or recognized me as the out of control gremmie and I never reminded him either. I will miss Yancy, he was one of a kind and somehow the beach will never be the same without him.

  • Robert Joseph

    I grew up in Pensacola and like all of my friends bought my first boards from Yancy. It was an honor knowing him and seeing his influence on the surfing world is an inspiration.

  • abigail spencer

    shea, i’m yancy’s daughter and i so appreciate you taking the time to express your experiences with him. it means so much, and that he meant so much to you guys, up close and from afar. he loved surfing. loved it. he taught me to follow what i love, and the rest will fall in to place. i always have known what you have done for the gulf coast, and we’ll try and continue his legacy. big sandy shoes to fill. thank you for how you so eloquently expressed your endearing thoughts. means the world.
    forever grateful. abigail

  • Van Saxton

    Growing up in Gulf Breeze I’ve had the privilege to watch countless hours of Yancy doing what he loved to do SURF. Yancy sold me my first board in 1972 and with younger brother JB and Mike Stephens let us spend the night at his cottage on the beach and drove us to my first surf outing which was a contest at the Cross. I remember being amazed at the beach scene and watching guys like John Spencer, Yancy Spencer, JB Spencer, Jerry Babin, BZ Turner, Brad English,Dirk and Kevin Wood (with their surgical tubing on their legs) ride beautiful large waves while I tried to get past the inside break. I never did make it out but surfing was forever in my blood. Everyone who lives in the area got to surf with Yancy and I personally will miss the days during the week when looking for a place to surf and seeing the Innerlight van and knowing that a friend was in the water to surf with. God Bless you Yancy. You will be missed but not forgotten.

  • Bill Owsley

    The Spencers were neighbors about junior high and part of high school. Our driveway had a street light and was double wide to serve two houses. That was the largest smooth concrete surface for a long ways. Yancy skateboarded out there for hours and hours. Gulf surf can be flat for many days, and weeks, and Yancy surfed the concrete. His skateboarding looked much like his surfing, so while so many others were waiting ,Yancy was ‘surfing’ a skateboard. He wore the wheels off of many a board.
    I was talking today with one of his earlier neighbors and best friend from elementary school days, Mike Fleming. We were remembering stories from the old neigborhoods and our friends from so long ago, and how Yancy wove a connection between us all.
    My brother David was friends, worked him at the first store, sold me one of Yancys boards. Others such as Ken and Stanley Russ were close friends. The Wood’s, Barry and I went to HS together, then later in college, it was Kevin. A few times were showed up for tests in our wetsuits, having rushed in from some great winter surf. Class we’d skip, but not the tests.
    Yancy connected so many people, all friends from so long ago, over 50 years!
    The paddle out on Sunday could well make Guiness book of records.
    The beach will be packed. I’m hope there is a great Gulf Coast swell for that day.

  • Terry Peek

    We lost a wonderful person from our large surfing family on Monday. Yancy was always quick with a smile. He lived the life he loved and had the fortune of having a wonderful family around him.

    One of my favorite stories regarding Yancy took place about 8 years ago, when we were exhibiting at Surf Expo in Orlando. My wife and I were riding the shuttle bus up to the front of the convention center. A young couple on the bus looked out the window and the young guy blurted out “look at that old guy on the skateboard”. It was Yancy, skating down the walk with a surfboard under his arm. We laughed.

    God Bless, and may it be 6 foot and glassy on your arrival in heaven Yancy.

  • henry ford

    Yancy, was a true Surfer! I had the pleasure of knowing him whenever he came to the West Coast! We would run into each other in the water or at one of the surf show or a contest!!! His faith and love of surfing were an enspiration to me everytime we met!!! The surfing world has lost another LEGEND! Yhanks Yancy for your friendship RIP, Henry Ford

  • Anne Lopez

    A true Gulf coast legend who inspired our family, helped us when we asked and guided my boys. My thought and prayers are with the family of this wonderful man.

  • pete lopez

    I have great memories of surfing together and spending time at contests watching our boys compete but most of all our conversations , our similar ages and life experiences brought much to be shared. What a great guy ! Our thoughts and prayers to the Spencer family. Pete Lopez

  • Kevin

    The name of his Shop said it all…INNERLIGHT. 6ft and glassy!!

  • “Coach” Walt Richardson

    I met and surfed with Yancy at the Easter contest in Cocoa Beach a few years back . He was a great ambassador for the sport and I am truly sorry for his family and the loss they must endure. He was the lest pretentious of the entire group of Legends and the first to strike up a conversation with a new comer. We shared a few waves but only the ones he left during the competition. I will remember forever what he said, “Surf to live and live to surf.” As the years add up, I have made it my mantra as well.