What is surf art?

by Jared Prince January 03, 2013

 What Is Surf Art?

"Surf art is a way of portraying, remembering, and sharing what we love." John O'Brien

"I would say that surf art comes from an intense passion for surfing revealed through a physical medium for others to share a glimpse of the joy that surfing is." Howard Kirk [1]

According to our trusty source Wiki, Surf Art "is a visual art about or related to the sport of surfing."  That sounds about right.  When you think of surf art, what medium pops into your mind?  Probably surf photography.  Our galleries are all about promoting some of the best surf, snowboard, ski and skateboard photography, but did you know some of the first "surf art" was made some 3,000 years ago?  According to Wiki in Peru " some of the world's first historians carved bas-reliefs of surfers."  Sounds pretty rad right?  So basically "surf art" is a pretty vast medium dating back thousands of years ago and into the 21st century.  The piece, View of Karakakooa, in Owyee, was published  in 1790.  It was the first time Europeans saw a surfboard as art. This engraving shows a man paddling a surfboard to greet Captain Cook’s third expedition as it sailed into Hawaiian waters.

Mark Twain's 1872 novel, Roughing It, described a Polynesian surfer he saw who . . at the right moment . . . would fling his board upon [the wave’s] foamy crest and himself upon the board, whipping by like a bombshell. [2]

In surf art, we can find anything from bas-reliefs, to posters, artifacts, photography, furniture, painting, dioramas, sculpture and let's not forget surfing films.  Surfboards are most definitely an art form and surf art is also seen in graffiti, on clothing and in music lyrics.  What is so great about surf art is that it can bring us to different parts of the world, different waves, cultures, weather, mentalities and ways of life.  Some people like surf art because they are surfers themselves and others like to be caught up in a place and time, maybe dream a little and unwind with the artist's story.  Check out some examples below of surf art from the 1700's to 1900's:

John Webber, first drawing of a surfboard, circa 1778. "A View of KaraKakooa, in Owyhee." [3]
F. Howard: "Sandwich Island Surf-riders, circa 1830."
Pellion’ Houses and Surfboard of Kalaimoku, 1819
Ambrose Patterson's Surfriders, Honolulu, c.1915, wood block print
John Severson known as the creator of the internationally acclaimed SURFER Magazine, started out as a painter - http://www.surferart.com/SevPaintings.html
Charles W. Bartlett  http://www.art.com/gallery/id--a40951/charles-w-bartlett-posters.htm
Phil Dike http://www.shannonwing.com/next/f_PhilDike.html
George Brangier's Aloha Shirts http://www.newtattheroyal.com/page12_nostalgia.html

Thanks for reading our blog.  Do you have any surf artists that you love?  Please share them with us.  You can find more examples of Surf Artists on our Pinterest board: https://pinterest.com/thecanvaswave/surf-artists/

CREDIT: [1] http://www.clubofthewaves.com, [2] http://lagunaartmuseum.org, [3] http://www.surfresearch.com.au [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surfing

Jared  Prince
Jared Prince


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