Surfing's golden age

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

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On land, Grannis loved the clean, cool remove provided by the Century 1000 telephoto lens. Viewed from a halfmile away, artfully framed surfers appeared as heroic figures within a vast arena such as Sunset Beach. But it was his dedication to the rest of the beach scene that fills a large gap in surfing's collective memory today. Grannis's photography, especially from 1960 to 1965, caught surfing at a critical juncture between cult and culture.

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.

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Marsha Bainer, Torrance Beach, 1964