Chuck Allen, 1936–2011

The surfing coach turned snowboard evangelist

By occupation, Chuck Allen was a banker. By avocation, he was a cheerleader for surfing and snowboarding whose dogged efforts helped alter both sports’ image as stoner hobbies and convinced the world they were demanding, legitimate sports. Allen was a born teacher who communicated his love of competition and fair play to nearly everyone he encountered. “His guidance was priceless,” said Janice Aragon, head of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, the group Allen formed to unite competitive surfers under a common—and respectable—banner.

Allen was born in Enid, Okla., far from anything resembling saltwater or swells, said the San Bernardino, Calif., Sun. Horseback riding was his sport, and as a teen he competed in rodeos. But that was before he got his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, at age 19, when “he drove from Oklahoma to Southern California in a 1944 Ford Coupe.” His trip terminated at Tin Can Beach, so named because beachgoers dumped their trash there. He pitched a tent and worked odd jobs until he could afford an apartment. By the 1960s, he had graduated to a banking career and a house in San Juan Capistrano, in Orange County, with his wife and children. When the kids took up surfing, he did too, even serving as an unpaid coach on his sons’ high school surfing team.

But he didn’t care for the popular image of surfing as the sport of dropouts and beach bums, said The New York Times. So with four colleagues, he formed the NSSA, which required young surfers to stay in school and maintain a grade-point average of 2.0 or better. Surfers who complied were free to compete in sanctioned events and were offered “added incentives like scholarships and paths to corporate sponsorship.”

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Allen’s influence on snowboarding may have been even greater, said When he and his family took up the sport in the 1980s, many ski areas prohibited snowboarding. Turning his “ambassadorial charm” to the challenge, he helped teach snowboarders and skiers to co-exist. In 1998, he used a $500 donation from TransWorld Snowboarding magazine to found the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association, which today boasts 5,000 members. The move gave the sport the “legitimate farm system” it needed to win recognition as an Olympic sport. It made its Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. “He helped civilize the sport,” said snowboarding journalist Kevin Kinnear.

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