An art more important than inline rollerskating!
Yesterday found me at my young daughter’s best friend’s house. It was a lousy, freezing cold day at the beach like it has been all summer long. Bleak and depressing, creating fouled moods amongst Independence day weekend revelers. Glum frowns etc. Much piqued yelling at the children to keep their fucking sandy feet out of the Sprinter. Etc.
Thankfully my young daughter’s best friend’s house is slightly inland, featuring manicured property and a gorgeous swimming pool. Most importantly it is beyond the now Satanic marine layer and the sun shown brightly.
So there I was, picking her up after a playdate that, by all measures, was an extraordinary success and really studying the LeRoy Grannis photo hanging on the wall. You of course know LeRoy Grannis, one of the most iconic surf photographers of all time. Matt Warshaw introduces him thusly in his award-winning Encyclopedia of Surfing (subscribe here):
Gruff-voiced photographer from Hermosa Beach, California; best known for the lucid, unadorned, well-composed surfing images he took during the 1960s; also a cofounder in 1964 of International Surfing magazine—later shortened to Surfing. Grannis was born (1917) and raised in Hermosa, began surfing in 1931, and was one of the state’s top wave-riders in the ’30s and ’40s; more than a half-dozen photographs of Grannis are featured in Doc Ball’s 1946 book California Surfriders. Grannis and Ball were both charter members in 1935 of the Palos Verdes Surf Club.
Anyhow, this particular photo featured three surfers in different poses riding a Waimea bomb.
It’s beautiful and as I was studying my daughter’s best friend’s father commented that he had received the print from LeRoy himself but didn’t know who the surfers were. I guffawed and said, “No? Well I’m a surf journalist. I’ve got this.” And immediately proceeded to text the aforementioned Matt Warshaw, asking, “Which surfers are in this Grannis photo?”
He responded straight away, “I can’t ID on sight but can maybe look it up.”
I was slightly confounded. The image is semi well-known and I imagine surfing’s premier, foremost and only historian having this knowledge in the very front of his mind. How many semi well-known surfing images are there in the world? Twelve? Thirty? Definitely under forty and I thought surfing’s best, most thorough and only historian had them all in the very front of his mind.
Hours later as I was tucking into bed Matt Warshaw responded, “Top to bottom: Ron Newman, Ponce Rosa (eating it), Unidentified. None of them surfers I’ve heard of! Waimea 1966.”
And can you believe it? Can you even believe it? There are still bits of surfing flotsam and jetsam that Matt Warshaw, surfing’s best, brightest and only historian doesn’t know.
It made me extraordinarily happy.
I sometimes feel that surfing is a shallow backwater and we’re all retards drowning in 2 inches of water but then something like yesterday happens and I realize surfing has gorgeous unfathomable depth. Secrets, truths, bits and bobs that will keep our minds spinning forever and ever. A rich tapestry as profound as any. An art more important than inline rollerskating.