California born (1917) and Hermosa Breach raised, Leroy Grannis ushered in the advent of 1960’s black and white surf photography. A charter member of the Palos Verdes Surf Club in 1935, with Doc Ball, Grannis became instrumental in the development of the surf photo editorial medium, as a co-founder of Surfing magazine in 1964.
An exceptional surfer by California standards in the 1930s and 40s, in 1959 he purchased a 35mm camera and a long-fixed lens of 400mm. What began as a hobby, has proven to be, a seminal body of photographic work on the sport of surfing. In his front yard of Hermosa (my adopted hometown) or Malibu’s Surfrider beach, Grannis with his composition of light, shadow and texture, crafted the process with unparalleled quality standards.
Party wave ca. 1961
Five-over the nose. Southside Huntington Pier 1966
Hermosa Beach Daze 1967
In historical parlance, the language of photography has many branches. By chronicling the rapid development of surfing in the 1960’s, Grannis’ work offers primary documentation of surfers, beach locations, riding skills, surfboard design and liberal lifestyles. The commercial commodification of the rebel surfer in the early 1970’s precipitated a choice to abandon his newfound profession.
“I didn’t like the way the magazines were going,” he later said, “They were making heroes out of druggies and guys with big mouths, so I bailed out.”
In later years Grannis was a top performer in the senior division of the US Surfing Championships. Even still, in 1990 he was profiled in Life magazine, and featured in a Nike commercial. After induction in the International Surfing Hall of Fame, his many accolades included a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, along with starring features in documentaries and articles about his life.