Aaberg, Kemp

Lean, blond, smooth-surfing regularfooter from Santa Barbara, California; a Gidget-era Malibu icon and costar of filmmaker Bruce Brown's 1958 surf movie, Slippery When Wet. Aaberg was born (1940) in Peoria, Illinois, spent his early childhood in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved with his family in 1948 to Pacific Palisades, in west Los Angeles. Eight years later he began surfing, at Malibu, first as a goofyfooter, then switching to regularfoot stance so as to be facing the long right-breaking Malibu waves.

Although Aaberg had been surfing for less than three years when he was picked to go to Hawaii with Brown to film Slippery When Wet, he was already one of California's premier surf stylists. A black-and-white photo of him back-arching in perfect trim at Rincon appeared in the second issue of Surfer in 1961; a duotone version of the shot became the magazine's first logo later that year, and was reprinted on the magazine's 25th anniversary issue cover in 1985. The Surfer's Journal later described the Aaberg back-arch shot as "one of the most instantly identifiable surf images of all time, and an enduring statement about the joy of surfing."

Congenial and easygoing, Aaberg could nonetheless be obsessive: he avoided surf competition, but won the stock division of the grueling 32-mile Catalina-to-Manhattan Pier paddleboard race in 1960; he studied flamenco guitar in Spain for six months in 1972; he placed highly in triathlons in the mid-'80s.

Aaberg wrote articles for Surfer, Surf Guide, and H2O magazines, and his monthly "Surf Scrolls" column appeared in the Santa Barbara News Press from 1989 to 1992. He appeared in a number of '60s surf movies, including Surfing Hollow Days (1962) and A Cool Wave of Color (1964). The Jack Barlow character in Warner Brothers' 1978 surf movie Big Wednesday was loosely based on Aaberg; the Big Wednesday screenplay was cowritten by Denny Aaberg, Kemp's younger brother. Aaberg received a B.A. in social sciences from University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1966; in 1991 he was nominated to the International Surfing Hall of Fame.