Surf Culture Pioneer Writes New Book

Surf Culture Pioneer Writes New Book

Photo of John Severson and his book SURFWidely known as a founding father of surf culture, JOHN SEVERSON (BA, Art, ’55) recently published the book SURF, which examines his life as the founder of Surfer magazine and the evolution of surfing as a sport. Among his many accomplishments, Severson is a highly regarded artist and photographer, an early pioneer of surf films, and a graphic artist who designed the iconic “Surf Fever” typeface, aloha shirts, and movie posters that remain collector favorites today.

Surfer magazine, which Severson founded in 1960, was the first major magazine dedicated to wave riding; while he sold the publication in 1971, it remains in circulation with its mission to bring readers “a slice of the entire surfing world with each issue.” Severson received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2011 Surfer magazine poll. 

Severson, now 80, still rides the waves once in awhile and enjoys life in Maui with his wife, Louise, in a house he built himself. Not one to seek the limelight, he was urged by family and friends to finally write a book about his life. In a New York Times review, SURF is described as serving a dual purpose, both “a celebration of a Zelig-like life to envy” as well as “an implicit slap across the cheek of those status-conscious, white-collar elements that are getting ever fresher in their advances upon the wave-riding lifestyle he helped start back in the 1950s.”

For more on Severson and his new book, visit surferart.com. A Chico Statements feature article can be found at www.csuchico.edu/pub/cs/fall_08/feature_03.html.