Antique Surf Art – Petroglyphs
Surf art back may date into pre-history, to the fifteenth century and a place called Luahiwa on the island of Lanai. With some driving and hiking, there you will find hundreds of petroglyphs carved into dozens of lava rocks. The petroglyphs show a variety of human figures and animals, and some of the petroglyphs have been interpreted by some to be surf poses.
A drawing by artist John Webber done in 1778, upon Captain James Cook’s 3rd voyage into the Pacific, Titled ‘A View of Karakakooa Bay in Owyhee’, (A View of Kealekekua Bay in Hawaii) clearly shows a man paddling a surfboard out to greet the ships. A good number of etchings and engravings of surfing and surfers appeared in publications though the 1800s.
Vintage Hawaiian Surfing Art
During the first half of the twentieth century, artists famous and anonymous passed through the Hawaiian islands – or decided they couldn’t live anywhere else, and stayed. Some were intrigued with the rarely witnessed pastime of surfing and couldn’t resist including images of the sport in their engravings, drawing and paintings. Many copies of their art appeared on covers and within the pages of magazines, books and newspapers across the globe.
Art since the surfing boom of the early 1960s
Surf scholars point to Southern California art student and surfer John Severson as the godfather of modern surf art. Which is to say – art produced by surfers, which reflected the beauty, power, adrenaline, fun, drama and stoke of surfing.
Severson printed the first issue of “Surfer Magazine” as an art project in 1960 and included more than a dozen of his ink drawings. The magazine blew up from there, and among its early staff members were Rick Griffin and Mike Salisbury – two stalwarts of 1960s surf art and graphics who went on to become famous and successful artists.
Modern Art for Surfers
Today there are countless artists producing images of surfing or surfers. Some of these artists surf and others have never attempted the sport but the visuals are almost always inspiring.
For more details on vintage surfing art, including dozens of photos of collectible surf art dating from the late 1700s through all the eras, with detailed descriptions and values, see the chapter Surf Art, in The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Surfboards & Collectibles.