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6/05/17

At 28, Reno Abellira is physically much the same as the serious teenager who crouched low and drew long lines off the bottom in 1968, at the World Contest in Puerto Rico, when surfing’s mainstream was off on a different  tangent. His surfing is simple, concise and direct; and if he no longer stands out...

6/02/17

The man knew how to have a good time. I appreciate the wetsuits, but right now I’m warmed up just watching Jack enjoying himself so completely. A long, exciting, creative life. Raise your glass to Jack O’Neill....

6/02/17

I arrived in San  Francisco in early 1991 and didn’t know a soul except Mark Renneker, aka Jesus of Taraval, and a nice but droning surfboard fetishist named George Orbelian, neither of whom were going to take me to the clubs, get me drunk, get me laid. Fortunately a pal of a pal introduced me to a trio of...

5/28/17

The story I heard about Pacific Vibrations goes something like this. John Severson wanted to make one last magnum opus surf movie, then tap out. Sell SURFER, train his replacement, pack his boards and family, and move to Maui. That’s exactly how it happened. Incredible career, as profitable as it was creative, not overly long, capped off...

5/28/17

This piece is also from History of Surfing. For my money, the single most amazing thing about John Severson was the turnaround he made in 1968. SURFER wasn’t in trouble at that point, exactly, but it was stagnating while John played golf and washing his Mercedes. New SURFER hire Drew Kampion I believe is one who got...

5/28/17

Surrounded by John Severson’s work today, looking at his movies and books, and of course for the millionth time paging through the magazine he created. Hope to have a video ready by tomorrow—John was a visual-first guy, and I’m following his lead. Meanwhile, I’ve got a pair of sections from History of Surfing that give the briefest outline...

5/24/17

Above the Roar is up, and dammit that is the last one. For those keeping score, we’re now at three: Encyclopedia of Surfing, History of Surfing, Above the Roar. I will craft and sculpt this trio of websites till Saint Peter Ubers me up to the pearly gates, hopefully after one last good beachbreak session with my as-yet-unborn...

5/19/17

To the best of my knowledge, this is the complete eight-man list of the surfers who rode Waimea on November 5 or 7 (the exact date is unclear), 1957. In no particular order . . . GREG NOLL Mea culpa #1. Noll was 20 the day Waimea was busted, not 19, as I reported earlier this week....

5/18/17

Two weeks ago I gushed forth on how Riding Giants tweaked my whole understanding about how to present surf history. Dress it up, I said. Make it dance and sparkle—history need not be as dull and lifeless as a Mike Pence tailgate party. On the other hand, a little sparkle goes a long way. Dance with the...

5/15/17

Surfer and boardmaker Dick Catri of Miami Beach, Florida, died on May 14, after a series of strokes. He was 79. Catri was sometimes called “the Godfather of East Coast Surfing”—with all that implied. He was smart and funny and energetic, hugely likable, and had about him a whiff of danger. As a child, Catri wanted to...

5/10/17

Jose Angel was 43 when he died while free diving for black coral, maybe a suicide, maybe not, it’s a mystery gone cold. No goodbye note. No body, for that matter. Jose rolled off the edge of the boat holding a big rock to his chest to speed his descent, went past 300′ and never came up. That...

5/01/17

Drew Kampion, The New Yorker, Riding Giants. Three wonderful things, listed chronologically, to guide my journey to this broke-ass yet weirdly elevated career stage. Throughout the 1980s, my muse, my creative North Star, was to try and be as smart and funny as Kampion was during his ’69-’70 SURFER heyday. My 1991 New Yorker subscription, unbroken to this day, lifted me dripping and...

4/25/17

American surfers of a certain age, a lot of them, I’m guessing a majority, will say that 1972’s Five Summer Stories is the best surf movie ever made. I will smile and nod in apparent agreement before replying, “Nay, sir! Twas Going Surfin’!” But it is the gentlest of rebukes. The two films are almost twins. Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman made Five Summer Stories,...

4/25/17

This interview ran in the September 1963 issue of Surf Guide, and was titled “Buzzy Trent: Power to Conquer the Giants.” The author is uncredited, but it was probably Surf Guide editor Bill Cleary. From the introduction: “Buzzy, 34, is married to Violet, a beautiful Hawaiian girl, who describes him thusly: ‘Six-feet tall, 190 pounds, square jaw, very big...

4/19/17

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...

4/11/17

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...

4/04/17

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....

3/28/17

In early 1954, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin sent 26-year-old Korean-American reporter Sarah Park to do a human interest piece on a group California surfers who were wintering in a weather-beaten house in Makaha. Park was tough. She was just back from a year in-country covering the Korean War, where she did time in the trenches, came under fire, and earned bravery honors from the...

3/24/17

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,...

3/15/17

Big-wave pioneer Wally Froiseth knew better, but told this story anyway. “In the mid-’30s, when I was 15 years old, they were going to have a surf contest at Waikiki. The first day the waves were too small, so they brought a Kahuna down to the beach, right in front of the old Outrigger Canoe Club. I watched while he...

3/09/17

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,...

3/07/17

Gene “Tarzan” Smith spent most of the Depression in Hawaii or Southern California, surfing and lifeguarding. Smith was superhuman on a paddleboard, and in 1940 he became the first to cover the 90-mile rough-water gap between Oahu and Kauai. But to those who knew him personally, friend and foe alike, Smith was best remembered as a bull-sized, bloody-fisted, never-say-die street fighter. Laguna...

2/28/17

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...

2/21/17

The graph you see below ran in the September, 1969, issue of SURFER, as part of editor Drew Kampion’s interview with Miki Dora. I always thought this neatly-drafted illustration, reportedly in Dora’s own hand, was smart and funny and cool. Only now, in 2017, nearly 50 years after I first saw this bit of surfy-sociological handicraft, does it occur to...

2/20/17

“Interview: Mickey Dora” ran in the September, 1969, issue of SURFER. Dora himself continued to write the occasional article for the surf press, but this was his final Q&A. All photos by Craig Stecyk.  *  *  * What part does surfing play in your life today? When there’s surf, I’m totally committed; when there’s none, it doesn’t...

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