Michael C. Houghton of East Orleans died on July 12, 2021 at Pleasant Bay Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brewster. He was 80.
Mike was born to Frances and Gerald Houghton on March 28, 1941 in Woburn. He spent his childhood summers at Coast Guard Beach, near his family’s house in Eastham.
He graduated from the University of Bridgeport and continued at Boston University before becoming a physical education teacher and the varsity hockey and football coach at Winchester High School. He met his wife, Carol, when she was the teaching assistant to Mike’s mother. They married in Winchester in 1967.
At that time, few people surfed on Cape Cod. California was the mecca of surfing — cue the Beach Boys — but one summer, Mike learned to surf. “It’s invigorating, riding a wave,” he later said. “Once you do it, you’ll go anywhere for the experience.”
He opened Jasper’s Surf Shop in South Eastham, on the site of a former car repair shop across from the post office, the same year as the wedding. Mike covered the stained concrete floor with sand, a feature for which the shop became famous. He imported longboards from California, and, over the next 40 years, he transformed the shop into “the epicenter of the Cape Cod surf scene,” as Cape Cod Life put it in 2018.
Even as Jasper’s business boomed, an undercurrent of social tension developed between the growing population of young, long-haired surfers and the crewcut National Seashore lifeguards. It was the 1960s, and the hostility was subtle rather than overt. Mike organized softball games pitting the surfers against the lifeguards. They morphed into the Monday-night Old Timers League, in which Mike, a lifelong sports lover, was a regular participant.
Mike’s nephew Conrad Nobili described Jasper’s Surf Shop as a club house more than a business. The shop had 20-year iterations in two Route 6 locations. During the second span, on the ocean side near Brackett Road, the surfing business was subsidized by Mike’s supplying clothing to National Park Service lifeguards across the country. But at the shop itself, business became a secondary consideration. He loved checking the waves in the morning for the surf report and holding forth with the local surfers.
Mike was attached to the long boards of the ’60s. With the help of friends, especially Kevin “Foggy” Foley, he started the Old Timers Surfing Contest in 1967, which continues today. All proceeds go to charity or scholarships for Nauset High School students. As with the softball games, the contest, Houghton explained in 2018, “is more a gathering of the tribe than an actual competition.”
In 1984, Mike and Carol decided they wanted to be near the beach, and they built a house in Orleans. Mike continued coaching hockey at Cape Tech and went on to open Kaleidoscope Imprints with his partners in West Yarmouth in 1988.
Mike’s greatest joys were his family and friends, coaching, sports, crazy cars, going to the beach, telling funny stories, and making friends with anyone he encountered. He spent almost every morning walking the shore near his home before the neighborhood was awake. He will be remembered for his sharp wit and generosity.
Mike is survived by Carol, his wife of 54 years; daughters Emily and Jennifer, and Jennifer’s husband, Steve Penn; their children; his nephews Conrad and Nick Nobili, Nick’s wife, Moira, and their children; and countless friends.
Mike was predeceased by his sister Pamela Houghton Nobili.
In lieu of flowers, donations may go to the Lower Cape Outreach Council of Cape Cod and the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Cape Cod. For online condolences, visit nickersonfunerals.com.