John Severson - The Original Surfer Artist!

As featured in The Surfer’s Path!

You can now catch the fine brushwork of one of modern surf culture’s founding fathers,John Severson, in three different locations.

  • Online – www.surferart.com
  • Cornwall – The Driftwood Gallery, Newquay (ongoing)
  • California – The Surf Gallery, Laguna Beach, California (from December 8th)


“John Severson is well known as the creator of internationally acclaimed Surfer magazine, grew up surfing off the beaches of Southern California. He began his career as a painter, selling his first works while finishing his Master’s Degree in art education at Long Beach State College. In the ’50s he became the first person to create a large body of art relating to the Hawaii-California surf culture. Since then he has provided a steady output of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints.

In 1958, John used his art, photography, and surfing passion to create a popular surf movie series, including Surf Safari, Surf Fever, Big Wednesday, and Pacific Vibrations. His posters remain collector favorites.

As a surfer, Severson was known for his innovative performance style in big surf.In 1961, he won the Peru International, and was a finalist in US and Hawaiian Championships.

With the founding of Surfer, John’s art focused on the magazine and graphics. His painting “Surf Bebop” was selected by Communication Arts as the outstanding cover painting of 1963. In the late ‘60s, Severson received further accolades from CA for Surfer and Pacific Vibrations. During the ’60s, he authored two surf books for Doubleday. In 1968, Life magazine ran 10 pages on Severson’s family and surf success.

John and his daughter Jenna

Over the years, John has continued a parallel career in photography; his photos have appeared in Life, Sports Illustrated, Paris Match, and others. John Severson was voted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1993, the Walk of Fame at Huntington Beach in 1995, and given a lifetime achievement award by the Surf Industry Manufacturers’ Association as Waterman of the Year in 1997. In 2004, The Surfer’s Journal released Surf Fever, a book of his surf photography.

Severson’s art and photography is featured around the world in magazines, galleries and exhibitions. Successful recent one-man shows include the Colette Gallery in Paris, 1995 and The Surf Gallery in California, 1994. The front cover of the LA Times in 2006 gave a stamp of approval on Severson’s art.

Poster for John’s film, the original Big Wednesday

From an artistic standpoint, Severson is a true original. Every mark, from the smallest doodle to the largest gestural brush stroke on a major oil painting, is clearly his individual statement. There is no doubt in my mind that John Severson’s art works will pass the test of time, both as unique artistic statements and as an important visual record of the developing surf culture.” Gordon McClelland, Author, Art Historian

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