John Severson

Surfer, artist, and founder of Surf Magazine. His new book is “John Severson’s Surf.”


Severson's paintings and sketches from this time have been called the original surf art. Severson published four editions of what he now called the Surfer Quarterly in 1961and the magazine grew steadily from issue to issue. It was at first a one-man show, with Severson doing all the editing and much of the writing, photography, and design work; he later 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.

Severson continued to produce surf movies, including Big Wednesday (1961),Going My Wave (1962), Angry Sea (1963), and Surf Classics (1964). He also competed in surf contests (in 1961 he placed fifth in the West Coast Surfing Championships and won the Peru International), and became a surfing spokesman to the media at large (as the subject or author of feature articles in the Saturday Evening PostLife, Sports Illustrated, and Paris Match). Doubleday publishers in New York during this time produced two Severson books: Modern Surfing Around the World (1964) and Great Surfing (1967).

Surf Fever, a 240-page hardcover retrospective of Severson's early work, was published in 2003.

John Severson on KCRW

When John Severson moved to San Clemente as a young man, he was only one of three surfers in the whole city.

Before the Surf Was Up

When John Severson moved to San Clemente as a young man, he was only one of three surfers in the whole city.

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

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