Mike Morgan Seal Beach paddle out

Mike Morgan.


The Inertia

Any surfer that ever ran into Mike Morgan in the lineup can attest to his ability to initiate a long-winded conversation, then snag the biggest, best set wave of the day. He was, without question, a shining example of just how great the surfing life can be.

The Mike Morgan Wave of the Day Paddle Out’s function is to honor the life of one of North Orange County’s most recognized characters. Mike Morgan grew up in Long Beach, California, where he spent his high school years splitting time between being an all-star football player and nurturing his passion for riding waves.

He was always a surfer at heart; he never hung with the jocks and cheerleaders. The football coach told him that surfing was going to ruin his life… boy was he wrong.

Like a lot of surfers that grew up in the Long Beach/Seal Beach area, Morgan was first immersed in the surf biz working behind the counter at Harbour Surfboards. His surfing talent landed him a coveted spot on the NSSA National Team, where he traveled internationally representing the USA. Mike, better known as “Morgan,” was a nationally ranked surfer in the early eighties. As father time ticked away, Mike’s surfing evolved. He reinvented himself as a world class longboarder in his thirties, and was winning events on the Professional Longboarding Tour. From there, he went on to become an integral part of the Chuck Dent Surfshop as well as a coach and overall proponent of youth surfing.

Morgan’s popularity in the sport was not generated from contest results. In the mid nineties, he started announcing the NSSA Jr. events, and became the official voice of the Nationals. Morgan became a fixture at NSSA events every weekend either judging or calling the play by play. His passion for the sport was huge and that translated through his commentary. You could feel the excitement. His sense of humor was sometimes relentless and his quick on the trigger. Tongue-in-cheek remarks would sometimes get him into hot water, but it was all done in fun.

Morgan was renowned, along with his close friend, Rick “Rockin’ Fig” Fignetti, as the voice of Surf City, where he announced every surf competition to pass through town, including the US Open of Surfing, over the past 15 years. The Long Beach resident was considered to be the Chick Hearn of surfing.

Morgan’s 1st Paddle Out

Mike Morgan Paddleout. Photo: Chris Sardelis

In 2005, news of the 44-year-old’s untimely passing sent shock waves throughout the surfing community, especially in his Orange County stomping grounds. To countless surfers worldwide, both pros and bros, he was a clear example of what surfing really is. “He was a dawn patrol maniac. Thirty minutes before first light he was the first guy in the water at the pier, for the past 20-years” says Scott Waring, Katin USA’s Marketing Director. As word of his death spread, it was as though there had been a death in the family and that family was the entire NSSA membership, staff, and every surfer in the north OC. Over 400 surfers paddled out on the south side of the HB Pier – with many more lining the pier – to pay tribute to one of Huntington’s classic characters. “There were almost too many people to have one circle,” said Surfline’s Sean Collins, who paddled out with local legends and groms alike. “We all sat on our boards, at first in a really big circle. His friends took turns holding up Mike’s board and yelling.” Rockin’ Fig, Mike’s longtime friend and contest announcer partner, stood on a longboard, hoisted Mike’s board overhead and started chanting “Morgan! Morgan! Morgan!” as the circle became unglued and everyone paddled in closer. There were flowers everywhere, and more than a few dings as everyone paddled closer into the center of the circle and started splashing the water.

Morgan, in his own way, brought all of us together. I saw longboarders sitting and hugging shortboarders. Guys that hate each other in the water, came together and held hands.

Morgan’s Wave of the Day Paddleout Fundraiser
Mike’s contributions to the cities of Seal Beach and Huntington Beach – not to mention the entire professional surf scene – are greatly missed. The Morgan’s Wave of the Day event is our way of giving back. It’s a celebration Mike Morgan’s life that also raises funds for those who have been affected by the tragedy of the Seal Beach 8 this past year. The Hawaiians have Eddie, Northern California has Jay, and Orange County has Mike Morgan. Every year a paddle out on winter solstice will raise funds for a local charity in Mike’s honor. Future plans may include an invite only expression session held only in classic northern OC surf.

Funds raised through t-shirt sales and other donations will be given to local charities. Seal Beach Victims Fund will receive the funds raised from t-shirt sales in 2011. The Mike Morgan Wave of the Day Paddleout is happening December 22, 2011, Southside Seal Beach at dawn.

To donate or purchase a Mike Morgan Wave of the Day t-shirt, go to morganpaddleout.com.

  • Matt O’Brien

    ahhhhh Mike Morgan – this little read was just what I needed. Thanks Inertia for keeping stories archived and related to current tales. 
    Growing up around the Seal Beach area, Mike was “that” guy we all knew and respected. 
    In Jan of 2001 I was out at Punta Rincon for the 1st time (it was firing!) and got really really barreled  - and ate crap right at the exit. Next thing I hear this voice, “I haven’t seen a boogie boarder get a barrel like that outside of South Side Seal Beach!” with a big ol grin. Well I was a little shocked  to say the least (usually when somebody yells something at me in the water with a regard to my wave riding craft choice it is not always pleasant), then I noticed it was Mike. He had some groms from O.C. that he brought up with him to score some point break on a ground swell. So rad. I made sure on the next wave that let me in, I was gonna come out just for Mike (and a little bit for me too)… AND I DID, and he hooted like your friends hoots for ya – with so much Genuine Stoke.
    A few years went by and I would think about that moment from time to time, then 2005 happened  and now the memory of that day is something that I treasure as much as anything. 
    I haven’t surfed Rincon since – kinda not sure I want to spoil such a pure experience. 
    Such a Classic Dude.