Jeff Divine book chronicles great moments in surf history.

The Surfer’s Journal has released “Masters Of Surf Photography: Jeff Divine,” the first of a matched series of high-quality annual books, each featuring the work of a master surf photographer. [IMAGE 1]

It’s appropriate that Jeff Divine was the first photographer selected for the series. Over the span of his 30-year career as one of surfing’s most respected lensmen, Divine witnessed each of surfing’s major epochs — from the birth of the shortboard revolution, the plastic fantastic 60s and 70s, the famous excesses of the 80s, to today’s new crop of aerial wizards.

The photography in the book is — not surprisingly — rich, varied, and top-notch. The unexpected pleasure, however, are the essays, which provide an insider’s collection of surf-media stories that span decades, from Divine’s notorious 1971 journey to retrieve Surfer mag’s 1000 mm lens from Ron Stoner to the “neurotic Surfer mag editor” who punched out an ad salesman who called him “fatso” in the late 90s. It’s all in here and presented with refreshing candor.

To order a copy of Masters Of Surf Photography: Jeff Divine for your store, call: 1-800-666-2122 or log on to www.surfersjournal.com.

TransWorld SURF Business caught up with Divine for the lowdown on the book, its genesis, and his storied career. Here’s what he had to say:

TransWorld SURF Business: How and when did the idea for this book come about?

Jeff Divine: The idea for the book stems from Steve Pezman publisher of The Surfer’s Journal, where Divine is the photo editor. I worked with him for years at Surfer. The Journal basically works off people’s photo files, and there’s a huge amount of great work out there. The magazines only use a small percentage of all the great photography available.

Part of his concept for the series is to create historical volumes that you can look back and say “Here’s all the greatest stuff.” I’m very humbled that mine’s the first one in the series.

TransWorld SURF Business: You’ve witnessed a huge sweep of surf history. When you were putting the book together was there an era that ended up being your clear favorite?

Divine: That’s tough. We figured out that we wanted to do the book just a year ago and then we missed the Christmas deadline. So this June we went, “Oh man, we gotta get going on this.” So we powered it out.

It was like doing a doctorate final exam. I had to write all those chapters. I had to gather and boil down the photos and organize them. That was a huge job. For instance, after I boiled down all the photos just from the 70s and laid them all out on the light table in different categories it took us about five hours just to go through those.

When we did that though, we were realizing the 70s was probably the most underutilized era. We’ve heard about the 60s over and over and over, but no one’s really heard the stories from the 70s. So I kinda went overboard a little bit on my writings about the 70s; those stories were just more interesting. We were living the lifestyle.

TransWorld SURF Business: A lot of people probably view surf photography and working in the surf media as being a wildly romantic career. Although you emphasize some of the upsides, you don’t shy away from stories about the less glamorous side of the business. Does it still seem like a great career after all these years, or is it just another job?

Divine: It’s still a great career, but as you evolve in surf photography — and in the surf business — you come to understand that the money aspect of the job is kind of a big joke.

I have friends who have spun off into other non-surf-related careers and they’re really killing it in the real world. They’re advancing in their careers and making more and more money. In comparison, the surf business is extremely cheap.

We’re all surfers, but a lot of CEOs and the people we deal with come from the attide of “Hey bro, do you have any gas money” or “Hey bro, do you have money for a sandwich?” That’s just how it is.

So when you try to sell photos to the industry, it’s really difficult. They don’t pay on time, and there’s a whole spectrum of people, from the “A+” credit-rated types all the way down to those that get an “F.” I’d say about the third of the industry deserves an F.

So it gets really frustrating. To go out on your boogie at Sunset Beach or out on your Jet Ski at Mavericks — it’s really dangerous. It’s hard. Swimming out at Pipeline is a good example. That’s incredibly hard. If you were in Hollywood, you’d get danger pay for that. And yet the reality is the magazine art director playing around on the computer with his Photo Shop makes way more than the surf photographer and all he needs to do is put the logo and pin lines in.

Surf photographers are at the low end of the food chain, but let’s face it: everybody wows on the photo. The photo is what grabs the kids’ and the buyer’s attention. It’s not the graphics or the design — I mean that’s an element of it — but it’s ultimately the surf photo. If you have a killer shot of Pipe or something, it sells. The Etnies ad campaign of Strider in that barrel at Pipe grabs your attention.

TransWorld SURF Business: There are more than 300 photos in the book. Is there a shot that stands out to you as being the most important — either historically or on a more personal level?

Divine: The one that got me most excited was the shot of Buttons Kaluhiokalani, page 22-23 which is in the intro to the section on the 70s. His tooth’s broken. He’s got his afro. He was at the height of his career, and the photo captures his whole vibe. He’s a hilarious guy. I was really excited about how that came out. It kind of captured the entire spirit of the 70s.

TransWorld SURF Business: If a non-surfer picks up your book and pages through it. What sort of impression would you like for him to be left with?

Divine: When I started writing the essays, it was really hard because you realize 100,000 surfers are going to read it and analyze who you are and where you’re coming from by the tone of your writing.

I got halfway through it and I realized, “Middle America isn’t gonna get this. They’re not gonna know that the North Shore is the North Shore of Oah’u.” But I also didn’t want to say, “The North Shore, an area on the North side of Oah’u.”

There’s dozens of things like surf slang that people won’t get if they don’t surf, but I think they’ll still appreciate it. Basically the book is written purely for a ‘core surfer and a ‘core surfer will understand everything in there. But I think people who don’t surf will still be intrigued by it all.

TransWorld SURF Business: You give a pretty candid view of the surf media and some of its more eccentric characters. Was everyone comfortable with the type of information that you cover in the book?

Divine: I didn’t really ask permission from anybody. I know everybody in the industry and I know there are some things you can’t say. That was kind of difficult, and I had to analyze that.

I realized that basically every story is harmless and is just kind of an anecdote. There was way worse stuff — I didn’t even go into the corporate takeover mess at Surfer and how the whole Surfing and Surfer thing has become so corporate. I mean, the people there are still great, but it’s changed a lot from when I first started. Basically the book is like a letter home where you say, “You wouldn’t believe what happened at work yesterday.”

TransWorld SURF Business: Has working with pro surfers and team managers changed over the years?

Divine: It’s the money. The surfers today are more spoiled — although most of them are great. To put it in perspective, when I first went to Hawaii in 1970, my roommates were hired on as water patrol and got 50 bucks a day and they were stoked.

The 70s were more core. To travel and explore you had to grovel. There was no surf reports — you just went and did it. It was more of big adventure.

Now you have everything dialed in. You get picked up at the airport, you know where you’re going to stay, you get treated like a king, and all that kind of stuff. Everybody has credit cards and money to throw down when things get tough or you really need to stay in a hotel. That’s incredibly different. The whole evolution of surfers in my mind is that we went from being like bikers to a point where now everybody drives an SUV.

TransWorld SURF Business: Was working on this book bittersweet, like “this was my career, but now it’s all over”?

Divine: I’m always going to be a surf photographer, but what’s weird about the book is that it almost seams like I’ve passed away.

I’m kind of shy, so it’s really hard to read about “Jeff Divine this and Jeff Divine that.” But it’s really exciting too. This book is the biggest thing I’ve done since having kids, building a house, and getting married. It’s a huge thing in my life. But I’m still just going to be Jeff, surf photographer. I’m still going on trips. I’ll be like the Leroy Grannis of surf photography. I’m going to hang in there and do what I do because it’s so fulfilling. It’s all been pretty incredible.ter patrol and got 50 bucks a day and they were stoked.

The 70s were more core. To travel and explore you had to grovel. There was no surf reports — you just went and did it. It was more of big adventure.

Now you have everything dialed in. You get picked up at the airport, you know where you’re going to stay, you get treated like a king, and all that kind of stuff. Everybody has credit cards and money to throw down when things get tough or you really need to stay in a hotel. That’s incredibly different. The whole evolution of surfers in my mind is that we went from being like bikers to a point where now everybody drives an SUV.

TransWorld SURF Business: Was working on this book bittersweet, like “this was my career, but now it’s all over”?

Divine: I’m always going to be a surf photographer, but what’s weird about the book is that it almost seams like I’ve passed away.

I’m kind of shy, so it’s really hard to read about “Jeff Divine this and Jeff Divine that.” But it’s really exciting too. This book is the biggest thing I’ve done since having kids, building a house, and getting married. It’s a huge thing in my life. But I’m still just going to be Jeff, surf photographer. I’m still going on trips. I’ll be like the Leroy Grannis of surf photography. I’m going to hang in there and do what I do because it’s so fulfilling. It’s all been pretty incredible.