A Visual History Of Surf Culture In 12 Spectacular Images

Surfing has had its own vibrant visual culture for more than a century–now, it’s finally getting the Taschen treatment.

Taschen Senior Editor Jim Heimann knows as well as anyone that surfing is as much a culture as a sport. “Growing up near the beach in Southern California during the 1960s, I eagerly absorbed the cultural aspects of that early surf scene,” he writes in the foreword to Surfing. 1778–2015, a new tome that compiles four decades of imagery from the world of surfing. Heimann wasn’t a surfer himself, but he still “hung out with a crowd that hit the beach every day, bought my SURFER magazine at the local drugstore, wore my Pendleton, and became well versed with the terms and conditions of this coastline sport.”


That sort of studied cultural immersion could be seen in retrospect as foreshadowing a long career of cultural anthropology to come. Heimann has an “unrivaled private collection of ephemera” that has been featured in museum exhibitions as well as many Taschen books. Many of the over 900 graphics and photographs in Surfing are from his collection, while others were solicited from experts in the field, surf legends, seasoned surf photographers, pros, and others who are just as in love with the vibrant colors and counterculture appeal of surfing ephemera.

The book compiles everything from the pop-art advertisements of Dewey Weber Surfboards, one of the first companies to offer off-the-rack customization, to works from ’60s psychedelic artist Rick Griffin, including pieces from his 1971 book Tales from the Tube, where he compiled the best of surfing cartoons. But there are plenty of much older pieces of ephemera too, like cover art from the 1918 magazine Paradise of the Pacific–which was founded in 1888 by King David Kalakaua to promote Hawaiian businesses and overseas tourism. We tend to think of surfing as a phenomenon that goes back decades; in fact, it goes back centuries.

We’ve pulled together 12 of our favorite graphics from Surfing. 1778–2015 in the gallery above.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.