Naughton, Kevin


Easygoing surfer and surf journalist from Laguna Beach, California; coauthor, along with Craig Peterson, of a series of popular Surfer magazine travel articles in the 1970s and '80s. Naughton was born (1953) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a psychiatrist, moved with his family in 1959 to Long Beach, California, and began surfing at age 11.

After high school, Naughton traveled north to Oregon and Washington, then flew to Hawaii for the winter; the following year he visited France and Central America. He returned to Central America in 1973, this time with 17-year-old surf photographer-writer Craig Peterson of Huntington Beach, and over the next 11 years the peripatetic duo, called the "Lewis and Clark of surf travel," by Transworld Surf magazine, regularly mailed off packages of handwritten text and color slides to Surfer, documenting their adventures in places like Senegal, Liberia, Morocco, France, Spain, Ireland, Mexico, Barbados, and Fiji. Traveling for weeks or months at a stretch, sometimes with just the vaguest itinerary, Naughton and Peterson pioneered dozens of breaks worldwide, and their articles captured the boredom, strangeness, joy, misadventures, and comedy of the dedicated surf traveler.

Peterson took the photos, mostly of the husky (6-foot 200-pound) but smooth-surfing Naughton. They took turns writing, always referring to themselves in the third person. "We entered the bar and situated ourselves at a table in the corner," Naughton wrote in 1975, describing their arrival in the El Salvadorian beach town of La Libertad, after a harrowing eight-hour bus ride.

The place reeked of stale booze and soaked armpits. Our talk revolved around finding a place to stay, how to get ahold of more money, where the waves were, and could we stomach another drink. Within a couple of hours, both our tongues felt numbed from the local tonic. Kevin scanned the bar. It was certainly no place for two scholars to talk serious business. Five mean-looking studs hung around a torn, faded, green-lit pool table. People in the back room were engaged in some sort of game that involved money. Right next to us a woman in a blonde wig was hustling a young drunk. Kevin did a double-take on Craig, who was slumped in his chair and swiping fingerfuls of a chocolate bar that had melted in his shirt pocket. Places like this attract a very special breed, and Craig was clearly one of them. Flies buzzed, chairs creaked, bottles clinked, talk clocked away the time: the harmony of a Latin cantina.

Naughton received a B.A. in English literature from UCLA in 1975; two years later he took a graduate degree in Anglo-Irish literature from Trinity College in Dublin; in 1983 he opened a nursery and gardening supply store in Laguna Beach.

Naughton and Peterson wrote 13 travel articles for Surfer from 1973 to 1989; an 18-page retrospective of their work was published in a 1993 issue of the Surfer's Journal magazine, and two of their journeys were listed in Surfer's 1995 article "The 10 Greatest Surf Trips of All Time."

The Far Shore, a documentary on the Naughton-Peterson travels, came out in 2002. Trout Rising, Naughton's young adult surf-themed coming-of-age novel, was published in 2011.