Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame 2020: Nick Christensen, Cultural Legend and Bucket Thrower
Nick Christensen was known as a power surfer when he competed on the pro circuit. It still is 40 years later
by Mike Purpus
Nick Christensen started surfing at age 11 when he lived in Westchester and his friend Mike Muni took him to Playa Del Rey. Her parents weren’t thrilled. They told him he had to get B’s or better on his report card to surf. He got 13 Aces on his next ballot.
“I learned to surf pretty much on my own. People around me just pointed my board towards the beach and I was off. Westchester High School did not have a surf team. But they had a physical education class in surfing.
“After graduating in 1979, I moved to Bali. I stayed for five months and came home a much better surfer,” he said.
That year he finished second at Hermosa and third at Oceanside and Malibu in the WSA (World Surfing Association) amateur contests, surfing for the Channel Island Surfing Team.
After enrolling at Santa Monica College, he was named captain of the National Scholastic Surfing Association team, which included fellow South Bay surfers Ted Robinson, Chris Frohoff and Kelly Gibson, whom he will join on the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame. The team was coached by former world champion Peter Townend and Towend’s other Australian professional, Ian Cairns.
Like Cairns, Christensen was known as a power surfer.
“We surfed against teams from all over the world. We’ve been everywhere, including Hawaii, Brazil, Australia and South Africa,” Christensen said.
In 1984, he joined the WCT (World Championship Tour). In his second year on the tour, he finished 33rd in the Huntington Beach Ocean Pacific Surfing Championship. He was knocked out by Bud Lamas, California’s top surfer. Then he finished 17th in the Gunston 500 Surfing Championship in South Africa. There he was knocked out by South African world champion Shaun Tomson.
Christensen was ranked a respectable 44th on the pro circuit. But he decided to go back to school.
“The writing was on the wall. I knew I couldn’t go far on the pro circuit, and it wouldn’t be far enough to make a living,” he said.
He enrolled at UCLA, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history
His best friend at UCLA was another surfer named Sean Collins.
“In 1987, we launched Wave Track, a 976-Surf phone number that cost 90 cents. Sean would get up at dawn and call the payphones to get surf reports from the locals along the coast. He had one of those Rod Serling voices that was perfect for surf reporting.
“I sent flyers and a $1 bill to every surf shop in California saying the first call was for them. Wave Track caught fire and became Surfine, which today, thanks to the internet, is the biggest name in surfing. Over a million surfers log on every day and we employ over 300 people,” said Christensen.
“Sean Collins passed away 10 years ago, but is still remembered as the main force behind Surfline,” he said.
After graduating from college in 1986, he joined CBRE as a commercial real estate agent. But he remained with Surfline as a consultant and investor until 2021, when he accepted a buyout offer from investor and Surfline CEO Jeff Berg.
Christensen’s eldest son, Cole, is on Mira Costa’s water polo team and his second son, Akea, is on Mira Costa’s volleyball team. He and his wife Ricilla also have two daughters, Zoey, 12, and Candice, 8.
Six months ago, Nick went for a physical due to joint pain. The doctors discovered lung cancer. After chemotherapy and surgery, he is now cured of cancer.
“It was a difficult and scary journey. I want to thank all the wonderful friends and family for the prayers that got me through it all,” he said.
Christensen will be inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame by former NSSA teammate, longtime friendly rival and 2016 Walk of Fame inductee Ted Robinson. HBSWOF