Swaggering American surfer and surfboard shaper/designer from San Diego, California; costar of the 1966 crossover hit The Endless Summer, and creator of the popular Gordon & Smith–produced "red fin" signature model.
Hynson was born (1942) in Crescent City, California, the son of a career navy man. He spent his early years moving back and forth between Hawaii and the mainland, before settling down with his family in the mid-'50s in San Diego's Pacific Beach, where he began surfing. Nimble and athletic, Hynson quickly became one of the area's best riders; surfing Hawaii for the first time in late 1961, he was one of the first to ride Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore.
In 1963, right when Hynson began looking for a reason to leave the country to avoid the draft, filmmaker Bruce Brown asked if he wanted to go around the world to shoot The Endless Summer. Hynson jumped at the chance. The blond-haired regularfooter was paired with dark-haired goofyfooter Robert August; along with Brown, the two surfers visited Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii. Hynson's sublime first ride at Cape St. Francis—the right-breaking point surf the group discovered in South Africa, memorably presented as the answer to "the search for the perfect wave"—was the movie's high point.
Hynson was a surfer of great composure, never straining, and subtly arranging his arms, legs, head, and torso into positions that would come to define proper surfing style. He was one of the sport's great masters of trim, often letting his board run on a straight, elegant line. Handsome and cocky, Hynson was also a trendsetter on the beach, with surf racks on his Jaguar sports car, a wardrobe full of stylish clothes, and his hair always combed neatly back from his forehead, even while in the water. "He was the golden boy," his former wife said in 2001, "and everyone wanted to be like him."
Never particularly interested in surfing competition, Hynson nonetheless had some good results throughout the decade, placing fourth in the 1963 Malibu Invitational, second in the 1965 Tom Morey Invitational, and second in the 1969 Santa Cruz Big-Wave Contest. He was also selected for the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in 1965, 1966, and 1967, and was a founding member of the rowdy but intensely competitive Windansea Surf Club in 1963.
A commercial surfboard shaper since 1959, and a star on the Hobie Surfboards shaping roster in 1963, Hynson returned from his Endless Summer travels, jumped over to Gordon & Smith Surfboards, and soon released the tri-stringer Hynson Model, a signature board later known as the "red fin" for its distinctive blood-red skeg. Many of the era's best surfers rode Hynson's boards, including Billy Hamilton, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Butch Van Artsdalen, and Herbie Fletcher. Hynson also designed and built the HY-1 and HY-2 models for Gordon & Smith, helped develop the control-enhancing "tucked-under edge" surfboard rail in the late '60s, and created the DolFin in 1973, a popular fin design patterned after a dolphin's dorsal fin.
In 1970, Hynson opened the short-lived Rainbow Surfboards in La Jolla, a combination surf shop and juice bar. Plagued by drug and alcohol problems since the late '60s, Hynson later spent time in jail and lived on the streets. A long-simmering feud with Bruce Brown led Hynson to sue the filmmaker in 1995 for a share of the Endless Summer profits (the lawsuit was dismissed in 2000); at an Endless Summer reunion in 2001, however, Hynson somewhat amicably joined Brown and August to meet fans and sign autographs.
Aside from Endless Summer, Hynson appeared in more than a dozen other surf films, including Surfing Hollow Days (1962), Angry Sea (1963), Inside Out (1965), and Cosmic Children (1970). He's also featured in a surfing sequence for Rainbow Bridge, the 1972 documentary featuring Jimi Hendrix in concert on Maui. Hynson was cited by Surfer magazine in 1985 as one of "25 Surfers Whose Surfing Changed the Sport."
Mike Hynson—Transcendental Memories of a Surf Rebel, an autobiography, was published in 2011.