Surfing Art on Vintage Posters
There have always been posters, of course, since before the written language. The modern poster industry, however, got its start in the late 1800s, with the invention of the lithograph machine, which allowed posters to be quickly set up and mass-printed at economical prices.
Among the most prized of the collectible posters with surfing images are those that were printed for the Mid-Pacific Carnival, held in Honolulu from 1910 to 1917. The Mid-Pacific Carnival was a celebration of the Hawaiian culture of the time, featuring traditional Hawaiian activities, crafts, hula dancing and of course, surfing. Duke Kananamoku on a wave graced one of the Mid-Pacific Carnival posters, and three out of seven of the annual posters featured surfing scenes – the Carnival operators knew a good thing when they saw it.
Surfing became an integral part of the Hawaiian mystique in all advertising since then, and in the 1930s – 1960s, many commercial posters featured men and women in the surf. As well as Hawaiian travel posters from companies like Matson Lines, Pan-American Airlines, and Canadian Pacific, surfing also graced posters for other types of businesses, like Napa Auto and Horlacher Brewing.
Surf Movie Posters
Bud Browne has the distinction of being the very first commercial surfing movie director in 1953 with his release of Hawaiian Surfing Movie. Although a new Bud Browne film followed every year through 1964, the very first known surf movie poster is Bud’s 1957 release The Big Surf. This simply-designed poster is extremely rare and features Bud’s own hand drawing of a surfer charging down the face of a large Hawaiian bomber. Bud obviously inspired all other surf movie directors who followed in the late 1950s including John Severson, Bruce Brown and Greg Noll.
The 1960s brought us more with Walt Phillips, Bob Bagley, J. Perkinson, Dale Davis, Bill Stromberg, Don Brown, Jim Freeman, Greg McGillivray, Grant Rohloff and Paul Witzig. The 1970s introduced us to the film work of George Greenough, Hal Jepsen, Curt Mastalka, Albert Falzon, Dickie Hoole, Jack McCoy, Larry Yates and Scott Dittrich.