Samuels, Lewis

Smart, acerbic, often hilarious northern Californian surf writer; created of the short-lived but influential blog PostSurf; Surfer magazine senior writer since 2010. Born (1976) and raised in Marin County, to parents who wrote medical self-help books, Samuels began surfing the frigid, temperamental waves around his hometown of Bolinas at age seven. After high school, he transitioned to sunny La Jolla, California where the goofyfooter earned a B.S. in Cognitive Science from UC San Diego (1999) and competed on the university surf team.

While surf-trekking through Indonesia after college, Samuels submitted travelogues to surf magazines and had an article published in Surfline on the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings. Surfline continued to use Samuels' work, and in 2007 he convinced the website to run his “Power Rankings” column—a regular feature critically evaluating the ASP pro tour competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, with a paragraph or two devoted to each surfer’s performance, a lá Derek Hynd’s work in Surfer in the 1980s and early '90s. Samuels’ analysis (continued on PostSurf) was generally spot-on, but it was his caustic, insult-laden remarks, flecked with references to highbrow literary figures, mostly directed at the bottom half of the rankings, that gained him a devoted following. “Surfed like he was in the Special Olympics,” he wrote of one competitor; “he reminds me of Charles Dickens, if Dickens were a Sydney metrosexual comfortable in the company of a young Oscar Wilde."

While readers loved the Power Rankings, among the pros themselves—accustomed to fawning coverage from the surf press—Samuels quickly became, as one magazine noted, "the most hated man in surfing." Aussie regularfooter Luke Stedman told an interviewer in 2009 that he "honestly wanted to kill" Samuels. “He drove a sharp stake into me several times and it fucking hurt.” Samuels also regularly thumbed his nose toward the surf industry in his blog PostSurf, started in 2009, and as a result was fired by Surfline shortly after the blog went online. His role as a bomb-thrower, however, was a welcome change for anyone bored of the scrubbed-clean advertorial content found in most ad-supported surf media.

Samuels shut down the labor-intensive, revenue-free PostSurf after less than a year. His stock at that point was high enough that he jumped straight to a Senior Writer masthead position with Surfer. His work for the magazine—feature articles, profiles, and a popular column called "Borrowed Boards," in which Samuels traveled the world without surfboards and only rode what he could borrow—while still funny and sharp-edged, has been less bombastic.

Samuels also writes for Stab and Surfer's Journal.