Friday, July 2, 2010

The Art of Surf Photography: LeRoy Grannis

Pipeline, Hawaii, 1977.

It's officially summer now which grants me license to reconnect with one of my great lost loves...surfing.

In high school and into the early years of college I ate, slept, and breathed the zen art of surfing and the popular culture that surrounds it. I collected the mags, cut out the pictures, wore the clothing, listened to the music, and would travel to the beach on random weekend excursions for all day sessions. But let's face it, I sucked, which I will blame entirely on my physical distance from the ocean...any ocean.

Unlike most things learning how to surf is not like riding a bike. There are many variables: from stance (regular or goofy footed), to board preference (short or long; skinny or thick rails). You also need to become a master (of sorts) at reading surf reports by checking the weather for tides, currents, wave size, etc. Every shore line, pier, dock, jetty, and reef break is different from the next and it varies wildly. I've surfed (or attempted) most of the Eastern seaboard from Delaware to Florida, the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Hawaii. Different, different, different, AND different.

I've sucked at 'em all but loved every minute of it.

This will be a continuation set throughout the summer as I rediscover some of the great photographers and their surf masters.

By Steve Barilotti. Excerpt from the book "LeRoy Grannis, Surf Photography":

Upon first glance, his photos may evoke nostalgia for a simpler, more naive era, but closer inspection reveals that he was documenting surfing's rapid evolution into an iconic lifestyle. His photos captured the real thing, providing a bridge between the world of Beach Boy lyrics and the reality of the Southern California beach scene. Surf language, surf music, surf art, surf media, surf fashion - all the basic elements of what are now considered essential to modern surf culture were either conceived or codified within this brief window of time. Grannis was one of the few surf photographers to swing his camera off the wave action and record it all. Get it here.

Into Another Realm: "Midget" Farrelly Surfs the Shore Break off Makaha, Hawaii in 1968.

Mahaka (No. 62). There's a full house back there waiting to drop in.

Greg Noll's Surf Team in '66.

Unknown Surfer, Pipeline, Oahu 1972.

Dewey Weber. That's one serious longboard.

Chevy Truck. 1963.

Car, Van, Wagon, Bike, Walk...just get your ass to the shore. Circa 1960's.

Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Finalists, 1968.

Chris Cattel, Huntington Beach, 1963.

Pipeline, c. 1965. Even the lookie loos know that that session is finished. Bummer.

Mike Doyle, Hermosa Beach, 1963. The Tiki Gods best be prayin' for larger surf breaks instead of that shore slop.

Hermosa Beach c. 1960's. I want one of those Schwinn Stingrays.

Marsha Bainer, Torrance Beach, 1964.

Jacobs Surfboards Advertising Shoot, Hermosa Beach, 1963.

The Lensman in Action.


  1. This post just described my life every summer for the past few years. Looking forward to reading more about this. I need to finally buy a board...

  2. When a blog subject comes to mind you just have to roll with it. Fortunately I had Sublime spinning in the background.

    I have a "board that got away" and a "board that never was" story sitting on the backshelf. Probably too painful to write about. Haha

  3. What great pictures! Thanks for a terrific piece on Le Roy.

    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

  4. Well, thanks Greg! Good waves are hard to find here on the East Coast. Keep doing what you do friend, and check back often.