Surfers' Hall of Fame: a tribute to the people who make the sport of surfing | Photo: Visit HB

Italo Ferreira, Laylan Connelly, and Fernando Aguerre are the 2023 Surfers' Hall of Fame inductees.

The initiative pays tribute to individuals who have made an indelible mark on the sport, industry, and culture of surfing.

Annually, tens of thousands of visitors travel to Huntington Beach's downtown area and literally walk in the footsteps of surfing superstars and legends from several eras.

The Pai Family, along with the Surfers' Hall of Fame, are steadfast in their passion for continuing this legacy of paying tribute to those who contribute greatly to the sport of surfing.

The induction ceremony takes place in Huntington Beach, California, every year at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

"The sport of surfing has such an amazing history, spirit, and culture all its own," said Aaron Pai, founder of Surfers' Hall of Fame.

"What a totally amazing class of 2023 Surfers' Hall of Fame Inductees, Italo Ferreira, Laylan Connelly, and Fernando Aguerre are!"

"Each of them has a passion and a love for our sport and has changed the world and made it a much better place."

Italo Ferreira: 2023 Surfers' Hall of Fame inductee | Photo: WSL

Italo Ferreira

Italo Ferreira was born in the small community of Baia Formosa, in Rio Grande do Norte on the northeastern coast of Brazil, in 1994 and fell in love with surfing at a young age.

When high-flying surfer Ferreira, well known for his aerial game, first got into surfing, he didn't have any boards of his own, so in order to get out in the water, the fisherman's son was forced to borrow boards from his cousins.

At 12 years old, the young surfer's life completely changed when he was discovered by legendary Brazilian surf coach Luiz "Pinga" Campos, who is responsible for unearthing nearly every notable Brazilian of the past ten years, and who identified Ferreira's potential as a junior contest in Ponta Negra.

Soon after, Italo won two rounds of the Junior World Championships in 2011 (finishing runner-up in the category overall), won the Brazilian Championship, and in 2014, he finally qualified for the World Championship Tour - the elite arena of world surfing.

Italo came strong out of the gate in his debut season and was named Rookie of the Year, with an impressive 7th-place finish in the rankings.

In 2019, Italo started by winning the first tour stop of the year on the Australian Gold Coast.

Later, he also won the inaugural Red Bull Airborne event.

Italo's dynamic season would continue with a victory in Peniche, Portugal, and a final in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, and Hossegor, France.

The final event of the year was the legendary Pipe Masters, where Italo contested the title with his compatriot Gabriel Medina, a duel of the titans that eventually saw Italo crowned world champion.

Italo continued to excel on the biggest sporting stage of all, winning gold in Tokyo as surfing made its debut in the Olympics.

Laylan Connely: 2023 Surfers' Hall of Fame inductee

Laylan Connely

Laylan Connelly grew up in Lakewood, just outside Orange County's border, a bit too far inland to adopt the beach lifestyle as a youngster.

But during a fateful trip to Costa Rica, where she took a surf lesson in her 20s, the thrill of her first ride had her instantly hooked.

It was about the same time nearly two decades ago that the budding journalist started a weekly column about beach culture for the Orange County Register, covering everything from surf events and environmental efforts to profiling individuals who shaped the coastal culture.

Many people in the surf world helped guide Laylan's career.

One person in particular, founder Sean Collins, became a mentor who helped explain both digital media and the mechanics of swells.

Soon, what started as a weekly column turned into a full-time gig as the Register's beach reporter reported everything from community events to industry shifts.

Laylan interviewed cultural icons such as fellow Surfers' Hall of Fame inductee Fernando Aguerre to business icons like Bob Hurley, along with the world's best competitive surfers raised in Orange County, like two-time US Open of Surfing champ Brett Simpson.

Laylan takes pride in telling stories of pivotal people who make up the very fabric of the surf community, most memorably pastor Sumo Sato and Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti, two larger-than-life icons who became more than sources through the years, but also dear friends.

Through her writing, Laylan hopes to serve as a bridge between the tight-knit surfing community and the outside world so that people who've never known the thrill of riding a wave can gain insight into surfing's unique culture and marvel at stories of inspiration, determination, and successes among the surfing tribe.

As Laylan's career grew, so did her passion for surfing, a love that has taken her to seek out waves in places like New Zealand, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, and even a few waves at the Surf Ranch.

While those journeys have been a blast, her very favorite moments are the days down at San Onofre with her husband Jon Perino and children Kai and Liliani, simply soaking in the sun and surf.

Fernando Aguerre: 2023 Surfers' Hall of Fame inductee

Fernando Aguerre

Fernando Aguerre was born in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Argentina.

He was groomed by his father (an attorney and ranch owner) and his mother (an attorney and psychologist) to become an entrepreneur and ocean lover.

In 1969, at age 12, his brother Santiago introduced him to surfing, a passion that has since encompassed his life.

His first business was a surfboard repair shop. But in 1977, the military dictatorship banned surfing in his hometown.

Aguerre founded the Argentinean Surfing Association (ASA) and organized a lobby for lifting the ban.

He got the ban canceled a few months later, and a surf boom followed.

Fernando also founded the first surf and skate magazine in Argentina and opened Ala Moana, the first beach clothing store in Mar del Plata.

In 1978, Aguerre entered law school while he continued to run the ASA and his surf shop.

In 1984, he completed law school.

With his degree in hand, he turned down offers from his father and friends to join their firms, resigned as president of the ASA, and left for California to join his brother.

By early 1985, the Aguerre brothers were into something new - beach sandals.

From its beginning as a two-man/one-desk operation selling 3,000 pairs, the brand Reef originated, eventually becoming the number-one sandal company and one of the world's leading surf labels.

In 2005, the brothers sold Reef to VF, the largest apparel company in the world.

In May 1994, Aguerre was elected president of the International Surfing Association (ISA).

He led the ISA in obtaining recognition from the International Olympic Committee in 1997 and the increase in national federations.

He serves on the senior advisory board of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) and is president of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund.

Today, president of the ISA, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and passionate global promoter of surfing culture, Fernando is the man who, for nearly three decades, relentlessly pushed to get surfing included in the Olympics.

Fernando considers himself a devoted bridge builder between organizations, cultures, countries, and all types of groups as a part of his objective of helping build a better world.

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