Born in Santa Monica, California, Bob Barbour was surfing Malibu by age 13, and was already taking pictures. “I had an interest in photography in high school,” he says, “but it wasn’t until I went to college at SDSU that my interest peaked. I had the great fortune of having Gene Kennedy as my photography teacher, and he taught me far more than simply the technical aspects; he opened a door that allowed me to look at the world and subjects with a unique confidence.” Barbour’s surf and photo passions led him to Hawaii, where everything came together: “My first trip to Hawaii was really a surf trip with my friend, Chris Hale. Even though I was just starting to shoot surfing, I took my gear along, hoping to capture some good shots. When I came back to California, I took the slides up to Surfing and showed them to ‘Flame.’ As it turned out, they used a few images, and I made enough to pay for my trip. That was the first of many, many winters on the North Shore.” Through the seasons, Barbour perfected his personal water housing designs there, one of his trademarks. A stalwart staffer for both Surfing and Surfer during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Barbour’s photo credit has always bespoke a reputation for only the finest natural lighting, an exquisite eye for detail, and the patience to capture each frame as he’d imagined it.
Larry “Flame” Moore
Larry “Flame” Moore became a dedicated surfer during his teenage years, despite living in inland Whittier, California. If his mom or dad could not drive him to the beach, Larry gladly took the long ride on the bus. Moore attended college at California State University at Long Beach, majoring in health education with a minor in photography. He was always passionate about photography, surfing, and sailing, with dreams of shooting his own surf movie. He was never without his cameras; he never missed a beautiful sunset; and he never missed a photo opportunity. For Moore, it was more than a hobby and more than a profession: Photography was his passion. In 1976, Moore became Surfing Magazine’s photo editor, publishing images under his legendary alias, “Flame.” Sadly, Flame was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2002 and passed away three years later. Posthumously, in 2006, Moore’s immediate and Surfing families established the annual Follow the Light Foundation to support up-and-coming surf photographers with awards and grants.”
As a young surfer from Florida, Lance Trout dreamed of riding waves at the famed Sunset Beach. “I had always watched it on television when ABC’s Wide World of Sports would air a surf contest there with the great surfers from the ’60s and early ’70s,” Trout recalls. He also gravitated toward photography at a young age, mentored by his older brother, a staff photographer for the local newspaper. Starting in February 1975, the realization of Trout’s ambitions culminated as he landed on Oahu with a Nikon body and an assortment of Nikon lenses, a Century 650mm lens, and a tripod, plus the offer to use his friend Chris Lundy’s surfboards. “I finally got to photograph very windy six- to 12-foot Sunset Beach on my first North Shore photo experience. I was inspired to try to get some stills of what I remembered seeing on TV. A few days later, when I was able to go surf Sunset, I got pummeled and decided to photograph the bigger days and work my way up to surfing it.” A freelancer with Surfing and Surfer from ’75-’77, Trout then joined the staff of photographers at Surfing Magazine through 1980, spending season after season in The Islands. “Photography was the perfect hobby to have in those beautiful lands and seas of Hawaii.”
Camera hobbyist Ralph Cipolla began photographing his brother and friends surfing around their hometown breaks of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Trips up and down the East Coast and on to Puerto Rico only furthered his passion for riding waves, himself, as well as capturing the power and speed of the era’s stylish singlefin surfing. He soon scored a published photo of David Balzerak at Wilderness in Surfing Magazine’s 1977 “World Travel Issue.” Late that same year, Cipolla took his first of three pilgrimages to shoot the best surfers on Oahu – Canon AE-1, 400mm lens, and 20 rolls of film in hand. “I traveled to Hawaii in the fall of 1977 with my good friend Dick Meseroll, who was a staff photographer for Surfing Magazine at the time. I paid some heavy North Shore dues by having some of my camera gear stolen in less than a week after arriving in Oahu; but, luckily, I’d insured all my gear before I left home. Eventually, I stretched a two-month trip into five months, living on Pupukea Road where Foodland was built. I was in awe of the waves and the surfing being done on the North Shore.”
“I graduated from high school in 1970 and lived in a VW bus at Ala Moana Park that summer, surfing the South Shore but not shooting it,” says Southern Californian Tim Bernardy. “I picked up photography at CSUF while working toward a journalism major and started shooting on our trips to Ensenada.” Bernardy learned the art with black-and-white film, which he developed and printed himself, quickly finding his groove soon thereafter using his favorite Nikon FM camera and a Century 500mm f/5.6 long lens, shooting Kodachrome 25 whenever possible. “I was one of the first surf photogs to capture travel in Mexico, not just the waves but the people and culture. The surfing world media was focused on Hawaii and surf stars, but we were interested in travel. I remember the first time ‘Flame’ gave me film for a trip – six rolls of 36 Kodachrome exposures and 10 rolls of black-and-white for three months in Mainland Mexico. I got the shots and Surfing Magazine published a six-page article titled ‘El Faro’.”
Hermosa Beach native Steve Wilkings admits, “Photo was my second choice. The printing class I wanted to take in high school was already closed.” For millions of surf photography admirers, we are thankful it was. Being based in the South Bay – the undisputed hot-dog surfing epicenter of the mid 1960s – Wilkings was informally mentored by the inimitable LeRoy Grannis and is responsible for shooting a slew of iconic, black-and-white longboard images depicting the Golden Age of Surfing. After moving to Hawaii following graduation from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Wilkings quickly gained respect on Oahu’s North Shore as an incredibly inventive, courageous, and focused photographer. “I wanted to portray elegance, style, and something new,” he reflects. A masthead staple at Surfer Magazine throughout the 1970s, Wilkings’ prowess and creativity while shooting Pipeline from the water was legendary, and he then went on to capture the world’s first remote controlled, inside the tube, surfboard camera angles. More recently, Steve Wilkings was honored with a bronze plaque by the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame in 2012.
“When I moved to the North Shore in 1971, there were very few women living out there,” remembers Shirley Rogers, a Hawaiian born surfer, model, photographer, and actress. “It was like the Wild West, and even being local didn’t help – my first Nikon setup was stolen from my house! Thank God they didn’t get my Century lens.” Being a local, female surf photographer in those days offered Rogers a little advantage when it came to behind-the-scenes access: “The boys were more open and available to ham it up for me,” she recalls. “I was able to get some really great candid shots of them.” But scoring action shots from the beach was intensely competitive: “I had to prove I was serious about it. I guess standing eight to 10 hours a day in the hot sun and dragging 50 pounds of camera equipment, tripods, and lenses through the soft sand for miles earned some respect! Even more so when my pictures got published in the mags.” By the mid ’70s, the entire professional surf world descended upon the Seven Mile Miracle every winter like clockwork, and it was impossible to miss a gorgeous, bikini-clad woman behind a massive lens. Lo and behold, inspiration easily found her: “Jack McCoy and Dickie Hoole asked me to shoot their Century lens at Waimea Bay for their surf mag, BackDoor, because they were doing water shots for their movie, In Search of Tubular Swells. The rest is history!”
“I got into photography to capture those chicken skin moments when nature just puts on a show,” reminisces Santa Cruz, California, native and Hawaii resident John Jones. Inspired by the iconic images of Don James, a dentist from LA who shot surfing from the 1930s to ’60s, Jones figured: “If dentistry gave him the freedom to pursue that, it’s something I should look into.” Most of Jones’ surf photography started in the late ’70s, when he finished dental school and moved back to Hawaii for good. “I mostly shot my South Shore friends, like Buttons, Mark Liddell, Larry Bertlemann, Michael and Derek Ho. I tried to get shots the full-time photographers weren’t getting, like outer islands, hot amateurs, local rippers, scenics, girl surfers, and lineups. I gave away a lot of my shots and, as a result, ended up with more than a few new dental patients.” Jones would reschedule his dental practice and take off work whenever a really good swell or contest was expected, or take a three-hour lunch to shoot Ala Moana when The Bowl was breaking. “Photography was really a hobby and I did it purely for the love,” Jones admits. “It is so much fun, but the pay is very low.” In 1983, Jones’ photo of Simon Anderson at Pipe landed the cover of Surfing Magazine. “It was the first US cover shot of a surfer riding a thruster,” he says. “There was also a poster of me at Ala Moana in Surfing’s “Poster Annual” taken by Warren Bolster around 1974 – I don’t know of any other surf photographer who has shot posters and been in one, as well.”
Being a surfer since the age of 14, which adds up to 49 nine years now, I still have the passion to get out there and catch a few, especially after growing up in Hawaii. Although I am somewhat limited due to living in Colorado. I think I first shot surfing in 67 or 68, my brother who was in the Navy at the time, purchased a Nikonos for me. I call recall during the high school days on Oahu photographing Kaisers Bowl on the south shore, Tracks on the west side….and eventually shooting on the North Shore in the early 70’s. My wife and I moved out to the NS in 1975, rented a nice house up in Pupukea. Once moving to the north shore I knew I wanted to photograph surfing whenever I got a chance. I believe my first camera owned and used for surfing was a Honeywell Pentax with a Vivitar 300mm, f5.6 lens. In 75 I stepped up to a Nikon FM and a Century 650mm lens. I made a couple of submissions to Surfing Magazine back then, it must have paid off as I soon got a package with 6 rolls of Kodachrome sent to me by Larry Moore, aka…Flame. All the “good stuff” went to Surfing Mag during this incredible time in surfings history, some went to Japanese magazines. My wife and I lived out in the Country from 75 to 80, decided then to move to the mainland, we ended up in Colorado. Naturally my lens turned to winter sports. I’m still passionate about surfing and photographing surfing, which I still shoot whenever I do my yearly surf trips to baja. I truly feel blessed that I’m still pursuing a photographic career at 64. I love it !
Col. Albert Benson
A war hero. A husband. A Father. Col Albert Benson one day purchased a lot up on the hill in pupukea and the rest was history. From that day forward he introduced surfing to all his kids as well as got into film making in a big way contributing to films like “Cosmic Children” and “Free Ride”. While he turned on the movie camera to capture his footage he also had his still camera at his side capturing timeless moments of late 1960’s in the 1970’s of the surfing evolution. His kindness left so many with great memories as he was a teacher to so many. With an open home for traveling surfers and a wonderful wife at his side the Col lived an amazing life and will never be forgotten.
His stories resonate along the north shore in a magical way. He not only embraced aloha but lived the definition of what it stands for. His work reflects a museum quality of surfing's evolution from the Aikau Family, Aussies and Hawaiians.