Photographer LeRoy Grannis, whose images of California surfers in the early Sixties helped popularize the sport and the culture around it, died February 5 at a nursing facility in Torrance, California, the Los Angeles Times has reported. He died of natural causes, according to Grannis’s son, John.
Born in 1917 in Hermosa, California, Grannis began surfing as a teenager, using a longboard made of redwood. He took up surf photography in 1959, at first as a hobby, then more seriously. He began by photographing the small group of young surfers gathering around Hermosa Beach. Learning from surf photographer Doc Ball, Grannis set up his own darkroom in his garage. His work was published in Surfer, Reef and Surfing Illustrated.
As surf writer Steve Barilotti notes in the foreword to the book LeRoy Grannis, Surf Photography, (published by Taschen in 2007), Grannis began taking surfing photos at a pivotal moment for surfing. A growing number of Californians were adopting the sport brought to the mainland from Hawaii. Grannis’s photos helped bring the young surf scene of Southern California to the wider world. Writes Barilotti, “Grannis’s photography, especially from 1960 to 1965, caught surfing at a critical juncture between cult and culture.”
Grannis also co-founded International Surfing Magazine, which would later become Surfing Magazine. He stepped away from the industry in the Seventies.
His photos have been exhibited at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles, Bonnie Benrubi Gallery in New York, the Laguna Art Museum of Laguna Beach and elsewhere. He was voted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame in 1966.