Regardless of what surf magazine you read, what website is on your home page, or what surf flick is your favorite, John Severson is indirectly responsible for its existence.
Widely acknowledged as the father of surf media, Severson was one of the original surf filmmakers in the 1950s, and his 1960 film Surf Fever led to the creation of the first surf magazine. Created as a supplemental to his film, Severson’s original publication, The Surfer, eventually became a monthly publication known as Surfer—the original surf magazine.
In addition to his films and publications, Severson was an accomplished surfer and artist, experimenting with various media. He is considered to be one of the most influential surfers and surf documentarians of all time, and received a lifetime achievement award at the Surfer Poll in 2011. Severson passed away in his sleep on Friday night at the age of 83.
The loss of Severson is somewhat symbolic, as the surf media finds itself in the midst of an ongoing shift. Surfer magazine has recently been downgraded to eight issues per year, and Surfing magazine folded late last year. The Surfer's Path ceased publication a few years ago, and numerous other international magazines have been closing their doors in recent years as well.
As the industry focuses more and more on online content, the shape of the surf media continues to change. And now, with the loss of its founding father, it is clear that the industry is coming to the close of an era, and will never again be the same. The loss of Severson will be felt by all surfers and consumers of surf media, whether they realize it or not. He will be missed.
Cover shot by Surfer Magazine