How I Got the Shot: John Severson chases a west swell

Featured in the new book of John Severson, who is widely recognized as the founder of American surf culture, this week’s “How I Got the Shot” takes us to Redondo Beach, California, and transports us back to the golden age of surfing. For more photos and paintings like this, check out “John Severson’s Surf,” published by Puka Puka/Damiani.

The Redondo Breakwall, 1962. Surfers and their cars; Photo courtesy of John Severson's Surf
The Redondo Breakwall, 1962. Surfers and their cars. Photo courtesy of  (c) John Severson via Puka Puka

Name: John Severson
Age: 80
Hometown: San Clemente, California
What the image was shot with: Nikon camera; Nikon wide angle lens, 50-year-old specs would be PlusX, B & W, f11 @ 125th—manual click and wind
Who: The image is of the parking lot in front of the Redondo Breakwall
Where: Redondo Beach, California

Why: It was late afternoon, and a huge west swell began to hit the California coast. In the Surfer magazine offices, I planned to take the next day photographing as many spots as possible—waiting out at least one good set, at each spot. I left before dawn, starting at Rincon—where the swell was missing. At the Ventura Overhead, it was spectacular, with one surfer out: Renny Yater. I got a great overview shot, and then drove south. My next good stop was the Redondo Breakwall, where I shot a few good close-ups, but before leaving, I shot a wide angle of all the cars, people, and waves. I wanted more wave, but in retrospect, it was the surfers and their cars that were most important. I continued, all the way to Windansea, but can’t remember any memorable frames after the Breakwall.

Magazine affiliation: Surfer
Bio: Filmmaker, photographer, founder of Surfer magazine, surfer, painter, the end.
Photographer’s website: www.surferart.com
Gallery: www.pukapuka.tv
Facebook: John Severson’s Surf

For information on “John Severson’s Surf” U.S. Book Tour, follow his Facebook page. First stop: Mollusk Surf Shop (September 23rd)!

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