The legendary and iconic surf photographer Leroy Grannis died last week at the age of 93. His photographs of Southern California and Hawaii surf culture came to define the sport and its culture in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His work served as a touchpoint for every photographer who embraced the sport, and it loomed as an influence each shooter was forced to accept or rebel against.
Since moving to California some 15 years ago, I’ve come to admire surfers and appreciate surfing. It was only after moving to California that I was able to fall in love with the music of the Beach Boys; now I can’t understand how I made it through my college days without Pet Sounds.
And though I’ve never taken up surfing, it is something of a lighthouse for me, and serves as an inspiration for my riding (my quest to ride the great climbs of the Grand Tours), my writing (to speak to the soul of the sport) and my photography (capturing what a cyclist would value).
It is in this last regard that Grannis has been an influence on me. His work showed me the value of capturing non-riding moments as a means to illustrate the cycling life. It would be arrogant of me to suggest that my work is a qualitative echo of his (it’s not) but he gave me the inspiration to capture cyclists even when they aren’t pedaling. Think of Grannis as the Henri Cartier-Bresson of surfing.