Author(s): John Severson
Southern California, 1960. John Severson founded SURFER, the first magazine to celebrate and revolutionize the art and sport of surfing, establishing it as a phenomenon in Pop culture. This volume explores Severson's surf odyssey through painting, photography, film, publishing, and dropping out to live the island dream. John Severson's SURF is a trip to the birth of surf culture and a testament to our Ocean.
Born in Los Angeles in 1933, John Severson led the idyllic beach boy life by the ocean in San Clemente where he discovered surfing. In high school, he experimented with photography and produced his first surf images with a camera in a plastic bag. He graduated from Long Beach State (M. A.) where he initiated the first surf culture paintings and the Surf Art genre. Drafted into the U.S. Army in '56, he was stationed in Oahu and assigned to the Army Surf Team. In Hawaii, he surfed at Sunset Beach and Makaha and completed his first film, Surf (1958). Severson followed with seven films, including Surf Safari (1959), Surf Fever (1960), and the original Big Wednesday (1961). In 1960, Severson founded SURFER Magazine showcasing his iconic black and white photography and typography. Attracting immediate acclaim, the magazine became the voice of the sport. An innovative performer in big surf, he won The Peru International Surf Contest in 1961. Severson authored two books for Doubleday, Modern Surfing (1963) and Great Surfing (1968), and was featured in LIFE in 1968. In '69, he produced his final feature length surf film, Pacific Vibrations (1970), originally released by American International Pictures and remastered in HD by MGM in 2010. His photography has been published worldwide, most notably in LIFE, Stern Germany, Sports Illustrated and SURFER. In '71, after eleven years as editor and publisher, Severson left SURFER and moved his family to Maui to paint, surf and return to the land. In the mid seventies, he traveled through the Pacific for a year and built a tree house where the family lived for two months. In the eighties, he helped launch Wind Surf magazine. For two decades, Kahala Sportswear has commissioned Severson to design textiles for Aloha shirts. He then authored Surf Fever (2004) for Surfer's Journal. Severson's recent solo exhibitions include The Surf Gallery in Laguna Beach (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008), Colette in Paris (2005) and Puka Puka in Hawaii (2009, 2013). In 2011, John Severson was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SURFER Magazine Poll. In '59, he married the artist Louise Stier, with whom he has two daughters, Jenna and Anna. Severson lives and works in Maui, Hawaii.