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The Wave Vintage Photographer Series : JOHN SEVERSON

Vintage Surf Photographers series 1 : John Severson
by Sam Bleakley
Pat Curren and John Elwell check Yokohama Bay, Hawaii, in 1959.

Californian John Severson founded
Surfer magazine in 1960, and has been a seminal surf photographer, writer, editor, publisher, filmmaker and artist. Surf, his first film, came out in 1958, while he was in the military, stationed in Honolulu. Surf Safari followed in 1959, after he returned to California; Surf Fever came out in 1960. Severson was among the first group of surf moviemakers, along with Bruce Brown, Greg Noll, and Bud Browne. In the summer of 1960, as a promotional piece for Surf Fever, Severson put together a 36-page horizontally formatted magazine, made up of black-and-white photos, cartoons, a short fiction article, a map of Southern California surf breaks, and a how-to article for beginner surfers. He called it The Surfer, and it sold 5,000 copies. Severson published four editions of what he now called the Surfer Quarterly in 1961, and the magazine grew steadily from issue to issue. Later he hired a number of people who went on to become surf media icons, including cartoonist Rick Griffin; photographers Ron Stoner, Jeff Divine, and Art Brewer; writer-editors Drew Kampion and Steve Pezman; and graphic designers John Van Hamersveld and Mike Salisbury. The rest is history...

Doyle+flipping+out+at+Makaha+in+Hawaii%2C+1960Mike Doyle flipping out at Makaha in Hawaii, 1960.


Harold Iggy, weightless at Makaha in Hawaii, 1960.

Severson’s first water shot, San Onofre, California, 1950.

Mike Hynson and Sammy Lee at Waimea Bay, Hawaii, in 1961.

Pipeline beach in Hawaii, 1962.

Reynolds+Yater+at+Cojo+Point%2C+California%2C+in+1961Reynolds Yater at Cojo Point, California, in 1961.

Round up at the Ranch, Point Conception, 1959.
Signs of the times ... the parking lot at Redondo Breakwall, 1962.
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