John Severson, San Onofre State Beach, 1959: a passionate publishers, painter and surf filmmaker | Photo: Severson Archive/Puka Puka

John Severson - surf filmmaker, writer, painter, photographer, and founder of Surfer Magazine - passed away in his sleep at the age of 83.

Severson was born in Pasadena in 1933. He started surfing at age 13 after moving with his family to San Clemente.

Severson earned a degree in art education from Long Beach State College in 1956. He was drafted into the Army and assigned to the Army's surf team in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"I had orders to practice every afternoon at Sunset Beach and Makaha. Yes, sir," joked Severson.

His first movie - "Surf" - was shot during that period. When John Severson returned to California, he released "Surf Safari" (1958) and "Surf Fever" (1960).

By then, Severson was already designing the movie posters and artwork to promote his adrenaline-fueled films.

For one of those promotional pieces, the Californian conceived a 36-page magazine with articles, photos, and maps that he called "The Surfer."

One year later, in 1961, he released a four-edition publication named "Surfer Quarterly."

John Severson: he is the father of surf art | Illustration: John Severson

A Multifaceted Individual

The market loved it, and Severson started hiring staff - Rick Griffin (cartoonist), Ron Stoner, Jeff Divine, and Art Brewer (photographers), Drew Kampion and Steve Pezman (writer), John Van Hamersveld and Mike Salisbury (graphic designers) took part in the early days of Surfer Magazine.

"The first issues were tough. They were very successful. But the surfers were great - they made the magazine," noted Severson.

The blue-eyed surfer stayed active in the publishing world.

He wrote "Modern Surfing Around the World" and "Great Surfing," "Surf Fever," "," and produced the movies "Big Wednesday," "Going My Wave," "The Angry Sea," "Surf Classics," and "Pacific Vibrations."

Severson decided to move with his family to Maui in 1972 after President Richard Nixon became his neighbor in Cotton's Point.

John Severson is often considered the father of surf art, a subgenre that would become a blueprint for the concept of surf culture.

But he was also a competitive surfer, a trumpet player, and a windsurfer.

In 1991, he was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame.

His final book, a collection of prints, oil paintings, drawings, and photographs he produced throughout his career, can be found in "John Severson's Surf."

John Severson's smile, vision, and passion for surfing will not be forgotten.

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