Yes, output on Encyclopedia and History has slacked off a little the past few weeks. But only cause I’m thrashing away on the next (and, God willing, final) website: Above the Roar. Surf Q&A, and nothing but. Like Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, but wetter and saltier. Hundreds of surfer interviews. I’ve been gathering these gems for years, decades. Duke and Blake and […]


I’m kidding. Sort of. It wasn’t Greg Noll alone who convinced Australian surfers to quit riding for Queen and clubhouse in 1956, and just do it for their own selfish enjoyment. No, peel it back further and I think what this great protean moment in surf history comes down to is how you look while carrying your craft across the beach. It’s like the […]


It felt like I needed permission somehow to make this little Latin-flavored throwaway video, set in fabled old Club Waikiki, on the beachfront of Lima, Peru, during the 1965 World Surfing Championships. Club Waikiki, when it finds its way into the better, more righteous area of my head, makes me squirm. A surfing country club, for God’s sake. […]


Buzzy Trent Week is coming to an end—but we’ve saved the best for last! Click forth for a Trent remix built from the ground up with A-grade Bud Browne film stock. Browne, the sainted Father of the Surf Movie, was the only guy to capture Trent in full charismatic glory, and oh just feast your eyes—Buzzy rubbing those cobblestone abs, […]


Phil Edwards, patron saint of power surfing, was the last of the greats to switch from balsa to poly. He didn’t like the smell of foam, didn’t like industrial blank-blowing process, and especially didn’t like the way the new boards felt underfoot. “Good on wood, spastic on plastic,” as Edwards liked to say. In 1957 or ’58, […]


Most of us think pro surfing began in 1976, when the IPS jumped off Randy Rarick’s kitchen table and took its first wobbly steps into the world. Or maybe a few years earlier, with the debut Smirnoff Pro-Am. But pro surfing goes further back. Jantzen paid Ricky Grigg $2,000 in 1964 to wear their not-very-surfy gear. New world champ […]


The vertigo is now upon me, having just pulled focus from the beer-scented louche magnificence of Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy to the hardcore surf jockism of Fred Hemmings. But that’s what we surf history professionals train for. Stick and move. Stories come at you from every direction. Be ready. That’s just Surf Historian 101. I’ve always had mixed […]


Part Three of a three-piece article published by SURFER in November, 1969. John Scott, a Santa Cruz surfer and photographer, wrote in opposition to professional surfing. And threw in a protest poem for good measure. See also “Pro Surfing is White!” by Fred Hemmings, and “Pro Surfing is Gray!” by Jock Sutherland.  *  *  * By now, […]


Part Two of a three-piece article published by SURFER in November, 1969. Jock Sutherland, that year’s SURFER Poll winner, had some doubts about how professional surfing might affect the nature of the sport, but ultimately decided it was worth pursing. See also “Pro Surfing is White!” by Fred Hemmings, and “Pro Surfing is Black!” by John Scott.  * […]


Part One of a three-piece article published by SURFER in November, 1969. Fred Hemmings, reigning world champion and soon-to-be founder of the world tour, wrote in support of professional surfing. See also “Pro Surfing is Black!” by John Scott, and “Pro Surfing is Gray!” by Jock Sutherland.  *  *  * Surfing needs professionalism! The most important […]


I was a good swimmer as a kid, but small and skinny, and I went from alert to panicky in a flash. Couple times a year somebody would have to pull me from the ocean. I got rescued on the north side of Santa Monica Pier once, which isn’t quite the same as getting rescued from a wading […]


Bill “Flea” Shaw’s page just posted. If you’re an old ASP fan, you’ll remember Flea as the intense, arm-waving, extravagantly mustachioed coach and husband of four-time world champ Frieda Zamba. If you’re really old, you might recall Flea from a star-making cameo in Greg MacGillivray’s 1965 movie The Performers. Ten-year-old kid gets his own segment! What an honor! Or wait, was it? Listen […]


This article was published in the December, 1982, issue of New York magazine. Writer Michael Daly originally wrote for the Village Voice, and was a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his Daily News columns on life in New York following the 9/11 attacks. Daly now writes for the Daily Beast.   *  *  * A pistol fired once, and […]


Rick Rasmussen won the 1974 United States Surfing Championships at more or less the exact moment Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal went to the front of my small but not-unworthy record collection, and I’ve come to believe that the two men, together, planted a seed from which my fascination and love for New York would sprout, grow, and blossom. […]


Smugger than Justin Bieber on a nude Instagram tear. That’s how I felt a few months ago when I dropped a “10 Most Glamorous Surfers” list, mostly just to get one over on dandy Chas Smith, arbiter of all things fashionable in surf. But oh how embarrassed I am today, after discovering that I completely, shamefully, overlooked the […]


I spend my days on the riverbanks of surf history, hunkered down on my thin old-man shanks, panning through silt and stones. It is tedious but satisfying labor. Meditative, almost. The job is not so important in the grand scale of things. I will not solve cold fusion by scanning photos of beaver-tailed surfers at Hermosa Pier from my collected volumes of Surf […]


Backdoor. Gotta be wrong on this one, but at the moment I can’t think of another break where the right off the peak has a different name than the left. Pipeline, Backdoor. Sometimes Backdoor Pipe, but usually just Backdoor. Same break, two names, and it occurs to me that this is odd, possibly unique. Two of the best […]


I don’t actually know for sure if Pop Proctor, vagabond surfer, heart and soul of Doheny State Beach, died that way. But I have a Life magazine article on geezer surfers that says Proctor, in 1979, age 97, finally lost his driver’s license, after which “he spent most of his time in the bathtub” until he died two years later. Proctor […]


It still happens, on occasion, that I find myself on a beach somewhere, board in hand, trunks or wetsuit put on front-side facing front, looking out to some shapely not-too-crowded waves. My focus at this point goes full laser. I will perhaps respond to questions, but otherwise not talk. Wife and child are G6-ed off to a […]


The “bad element” was scolded on the regular in American surf mags during early ’60s. Editors spooned out the pontification like castor oil. Open wide and swallow—it’s for your own good. And it wasn’t just the hooligans getting lectured; the rest of us were on the hook too. “It is your responsibility,” a 1961 SURFER editorial said, “to continue the ‘clean-up’ campaign […]


Jay Adams and his mom Philaine spent the summer of 1973 in a funky one-bedroom Waikiki apartment a block or so behind International Marketplace, just off Ala Wai Boulevard. Might have been his present for graduating Anchorage Elementary School. My parents separated earlier that year, and possibly in an effort to divert my attention from that Category One domestic shitstorm—pain […]


Geoff McCoy’s Lazor Zap surfboard design—generically called the “no-nose—looked incredibly sexy and futuristic, but was skittish and high-floating and drive-free and more or less impossible to ride unless you were Cheyne Horan. Harder to surf than a twin-fin? Difficult to say. Pick your poison. The twin-fin was like riding a bar of soap; the Lazor Zap was like riding an air-mattress pumped up to 75 […]


The magic boards I had in the ’70s and ’80s and much of the ’90s all sprang from the hands of good shapers, great shapers even, but each board was still a unicorn. Place your order and cross your fingers. I was a “team rider” from way back, and got boards cheap, or free, which was nice, but really […]


“Terry’s done a runner!” Ewan McGregor, playing a third-string London pill dealer on surfing holiday in Cornwall, gleefully shouts that line in Blue Juice, which I watched day before yesterday, and the words have been rattling around in my head ever since. Of all the small pleasures to be had from Juice, a barely-seen 1995 Brit-made romcom surf movie, the tangy UK verbage is at the top […]


The defining feature of the beavertail jacket was of course the beavertail itself. That piece of rubber dangling so actively, so rudely, from the jacket’s back hem was a signature surfer look in the 1960s and early ’70s. And hang me for fool, but I have no idea why. None. Part of me looks back […]

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