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.