Imperishable American surf writer and editor, best known for his work with Surfer magazine in the late 1960s and early '70s. Kampion was born (1944) and raised in Buffalo, New York, and began surfing in 1962, two years after moving with his family to Sunnyvale, California. He received a B.A. in English from California State University at Northridge in 1966, worked briefly for the Wall Street Journal, and was first published by Surfer in early 1968. By year's end, the 24-year-old Kampion had been hired as Surfer's editor, and led the effort to transform the industry-leading magazine from a handsome but fairly straightforward sports publication into an innovative, mischievous, drug-influenced counterculture journal.
Kampion was the most protean of surf writers, shifting gears from contest reportage to editorials, equipment articles, environmental pieces, profiles, interviews, poetry, plays, reviews, and fiction. He could be murky and ponderous, but had a playful side as well, writing a coverline that read "First Annual End of the World Issue!" and an article titled "Picking a World Contest Team (It's Harder Than Picking Your Nose)."
At his best, Kampion honored the sport by elevating it to a level above that of simple recreation. "It seems to me that surfing by itself is clean and basic and real enough to transcend this era of anarchy and unrest," he wrote in 1970.
[And] when wars and flags and religions and nations and cities and rockets and taxicabs and monosodium glutamate and television are gone, there will still be an order to things far beyond the order of power-crazed men. It will be the order of a universe at equilibrium with all natural forces in balance. And that's what riding a wave is.
Kampion jumped from Surfer to Surfing magazine in late 1972. The bulk of his surf-related work over the next 15 years consisted of interviewing and profiling the world's top surfers, but he continued to make regular forays into fiction, essays, and comedy—his Don Redondo series in the mid-'70s, a sendup of the shamanistic Carlos Castandea books, was the funniest surf writing of the decade.
Kampion later worked as advertising director for O'Neill Wetsuits (1978–81), editorial director of Wind Surf magazine (1982–89), associate editor of New Age Journal (1992), owner and publisher of the Washington state-based Island Independent (1993–96), contributing writer for Swell.com (2000–01), and American editor of the British magazine Surfer's Path (2003-present). He's also written articles for the Surfer's Journal, Tracks, Surfing World, Surf Session, Longboard, and other surf magazines around the world.
Kampion has authored over a half-dozen books, including The Book of Waves (1989) Stoked: A History of Surf Culture (1997), and The Way of the Surfer: Living it 1935 to Tomorrow (2003), Greg Noll: the Art of the Surfboard (2007), and Jack O'Neill: it's Always Summer of the Inside (2011). He also wrote the voice-over script for the 1972 surf movie classic Five Summer Stories and for 20th Century Surfers, a 2000 cable television series.
In 2008 Kampion became the first writer to be inducted to the Huntington Beach Surfer's Walk of Fame.